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Is Surgery Your Best Option for Back Pain?

Back PainSpinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spine, will affect an estimated 2.4 million Americans by 2021.

It’s a common cause of back pain in people over 50 and is often treated with surgery.  However, a new study shows that physical therapy may be just as effective at relieving symptoms and returning mobile function.

Treatments for spinal stenosis
Spinal stenosis is a complicated diagnosis for most patients and their physicians.  It’s often difficult to pinpoint the cause of the stenosis, which also makes treating it complex.

“The narrowing of the spine causes pain in the legs and butt as the patient walks,” spine specialist Thomas Mroz, MD, says. “While it doesn’t cause paralysis, it definitely has a negative impact on quality of life.”

Because of the condition’s complexity and the delicate nature of the spine, surgery as a form of treatment is usually a last resort.

“When you get to the point where symptoms are intolerable, you should consider surgery,” Dr. Mroz says.  “There are a lot of other options to try before you get to that point.”

A course of treatment is usually determined by a discussion between the patient and physician.  Many patients are surprised by the amount of non-surgical options available, including: physical therapy, cortisone injections, consistent exercise or yoga, nerve blocks, or alternative medicine.  Physicians recommend all non-surgical options before ultimately offering surgery as a treatment.

Surgery vs. physical therapy