Physical Therapy Just as Effective as Surgery for Degenerative Disc Disease | Oregon Spine & Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy Just as Effective as Surgery for Degenerative Disc Disease

Posted on October 7, 2016

The American physical therapy Association put out an article regarding the power of pursuing physical therapy first. I have noticed recently the number of patients who don’t understand the power and benefits of a movement based intervention that is safe, has virtually no side effects, less expensive, and effective. It is hard to hear sometimes when patients call physical therapy “jumping through a hoop” when they’ve been told they need surgery or want an MRI. Physical therapy is not only effective but diagnostic. We can determine who has a good prognosis with physical therapy and who may not. It doesn’t take an MRI or surgery to learn a tremendous amount of knowledge about your back pain, how to manage it, and likely make significant improvement.

Physical therapy and other nonoperative treatments are just as effective at reducing pain and disability as surgical spinal fusion for patients suffering from degenerative disc disease (DDD), according to a recently published study conducted at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.

Results of the study, which were published ahead of print in World Neurosurgery, show that among 96 patients treated for DDD, there were no significant differences in outcomes between the 53 who were treated with lumbar fusion and the 43 who chose to pursue nonoperative treatment. Measured outcomes included pain, health status, disability, and overall satisfaction. All patients were cared for by the same physiatrist.

All of the subjects in the study received a diagnostic lumbar discography procedure between 2003 and 2009, and were offered fusion surgery based on the discogram and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) results. Researchers found that while all patients reported significantly lower pain scores, data for the 2 groups “do not demonstrate a significant difference for standardized outcomes measures of pain, generalized health status, satisfaction, or disability.”

Results from an APTA survey found that 61% of Americans experience low back pain, but only 4 in 10 seek relief through movement.