Physical Therapy, Surgery produce Same Results for Stenosis in Older Patients: University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences >> Stone Hearth Newsletters PITTSBURGH, April 6, 2015 – Symptoms from lumbar spinal stenosis, an anatomical impairment common with aging, were relieved and function improved in as many patients utilizing physical therapy as those taking the surgical route, University of Pittsburgh researchers discovered in a two-year study published today in Annals of Internal Medicine. It is the first study that clearly compared outcomes between surgery and an evidence-based, standardized physical therapy approach for lumbar spinal stenosis. The condition, created by a narrowing of the spinal canal that puts pressure on the nerve roots resulting in pain, numbness and weakness through the back and lower extremities, has caused decompression surgery to become the fastest-growing intervention in today’s older population. A total of 169 patients aged 50-plus already headed for decompression surgery agreed to be randomly assigned into two groups: Those who would have the procedure, and those who went through two standardized, evidence-based physical therapy sessions per week for six weeks. After both groups were re-examined at intervals of six months, one year and two years, the patient outcomes appeared to be equal. There were no detectable differences between the groups in how their pain abated and the degree to which function was restored in their backs, buttocks and legs.