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Physical Therapy or Surgery for Back Pain?

Physical therapy may relieve one type of back pain as well as surgery does, a new study finds. The study included 170 people in their late 60s. All of them had lumbar spinal stenosis. This is a narrowing of the channel inside one or more bones of the spine. People had severe back pain and problems with movement. They were randomly assigned to receive either surgery or physical therapy. The surgery removed areas of bone that were narrowing the spine and pressing on nerves. The physical therapy program lasted 6 weeks. But people in the physical therapy group were allowed to get surgery instead. More than half of them did so. People in both groups had tests of movement 10 weeks, 6 months and a year after surgery or physical therapy. They also were asked about pain. After 2 years, they filled out a survey to assess overall results.

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