Patients typically have a choice between conservative treatments, such as physical therapy and heat and cold applications, and surgical options like spinal decompression surgery for relief from back pain. Reversing results of previous research suggesting surgical outcomes were better than results from non-surgical treatments for the same issue, a new study suggests patients may experience meaningful relief with either option.
Initial Results Favor Surgery
Researchers focused on patients with spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spaces within the spine that affects approximately 2 to 3 percent of the population. Initially, patients who opted for surgery to correct the issue reported better results than those who relied on non-surgical treatments only for relief. Within the first four years from the treatment time, the majority of patients who had surgery reported a more positive outcome.
Little Long-Term Difference
When results were examined further out from the initial treatment, outcomes of patients who had surgery and those who continued with conservative treatments weren’t all that different. While an observational study still showed an advantage to having surgery, researchers suggest that other factors may have been overlooked, including age and the overall health of patients.
What It Means for Patients
For patients, these findings means that relief is highly individualized with no single treatment option better than others. Regardless of the selected treatment option, patients in either group tended to be optimistic about the outcome, suggesting outcomes are also based on perception. Despite better results among the surgery group, long-term data suggests results from both groups eventually balanced out.
Better Patient Expectations
Another reason for the long-term similarities with spinal stenosis sufferers regardless of treatment options may be patient expectations. In general, spinal stenosis patients tend to expect some degree of discomfort or reduced functioning following treatment more so than patients dealing with other back issues.
As a general rule, Beverly Hills spine surgeons recommend conservative treatments when no anatomical source of a patient’s back pain can be identified. Surgery, which is almost always considered a last resort, is only required if there is an obvious medical emergency or symptoms are potentially life threatening or debilitating. However, individual circumstances determine what is best for a patient.
If you would like to learn more about diagnosing and treating chronic back pain, reach out to Dr. Bae in Beverly Hills. Dr. Bae is a conservative spine surgeon who is at the forefront of the newest technologies and treatments in spine care. To request an in-person consultation, call (310) 828-7757 today.