Rehabilitation may have benefits over surgery for resolving low back pain

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted June 13, 2005

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Intensive cognitive behavioral therapy and physiotherapy can achieve results similar to surgical treatment of low back pain at a lower cost, according to a pair of studies published May 23 in the online edition of the British Medical Journal.

Researchers randomized patients who had low back pain for at least a year to receive either a lumbar spine fusion or a daily outpatient program led by a physiotherapist in conjunction with a physician and a clinical psychologist. After two years, both groups improved significantly and achieved similar reductions in disability. The patients who had surgery, however, achieved this at a greater expense to the health care system. The cost of medical care for those who had surgery was more than $14,000. The rehabilitation group cost just more than $8,000 per patient.

Spinal fusion patients did achieve marginally better results, but the authors suggest that this may not be worth the additional risks of surgery and the significant additional cost.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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