Beating back pain - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Beating back pain

Physical Therapy may help back pain Physical Therapy may help back pain

(Ivanhoe Newswire/WTVM) - An estimated 400,000 Americans over the age of 60 struggle with back pain caused by lumbar spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal. 

For many people, surgery is not the only option, and a new study shows other treatments may be just as effective for long-term relief of chronic pain.

Stephanie Paul, 75, is committed to staying active. But until recently, pain in her back, on a scale of 1 to 10, was nearly unbearable.

Paul said, "There were many times when it was an eight. It was just on the lower back. It was just an ache.”

Paul had lumbar spinal stenosis. As she got older, her spinal canal narrowed and put pressure on nerve roots causing cramping in their legs.

Anthony Delitto, PT, PhD, Chair of Physical Therapy at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC says, "Generally, a city block or less will bring it on, and then they sit and the pain goes right away."

Physical therapy or surgery can relieve the pressure. In a first-of-its kind trial, University of Pittsburgh researchers studied which approach is best.

169 patients considering surgery agreed to be randomly assigned into groups. Half had surgery and  the other half had physical therapy, two sessions a week for six weeks. Therapy included cardio and bending exercises.

“Almost half of the people were able to avoid surgery at the end point,” Dr. Delitto explained.

For Stephanie Paul, physical therapy has made a huge difference.

Researchers say the results suggest doctors and patients should exhaust all non-surgical options before moving to surgery. Also, researchers found one of the biggest deterrents to physical therapy was cost.

For most patients, especially those on Medicare, co-pays of $25 or $30 per visit added up.

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