More Frequent Physical Therapy Reaps Benefits for Spinal Stenosis

In Back Pain, Hip Pain by Seth Peterson, Physical Therapist Oro Valley

We’ve written a lot about spinal stenosis. It’s a condition that we see often and care about improving in our community. In fact, we’re currently running two ongoing research studies on spinal stenosis (send us a message below for more info).  

Physical Therapy Can Help Spinal Stenosis?

If you have spinal stenosis, you may be wondering how to treat it. Answers aren’t always clear, education doesn’t exactly seem to flow from physician’s (or, unfortunately all physical therapists) mouths. If you were to be told to try physical therapy, it’s not always clear what exactly that means. As we discussed in a previous blog post here, it’s not always easy to see how physical therapy can help a condition in which the nerve roots have physically smaller passageways. If you want to hear from a flesh-and-blood patient, watch Mike tell his story of recovery from spinal stenosis symptoms here. It’s true, physical therapy can help, and research is clear that it helps more than just doing our YouTube exercises at home (gasp!).  Physical therapy can include mobilization and stretching of the spine, hip, upper back, as well as strengthening program of the legs and abdominal muscles. Once you get to physical therapy, how many visits do you need to complete, and how often? 

Questions about exercise frequency are not always easy to answer from a physical therapist’s perspective, who should have a discussion with you about your time constraints, any financial constraints, and what is “ideal.” That said, even the last bit – what is “ideal,” can be difficult to judge. Luckily, researchers have been at it again and a study published recently in the journal Spine sought to provide an answer to the aforementioned question. 

Study Results

The study, conducted by Masakazu and colleagues, can be found here. The authors looked back on a randomized controlled trial that they had conducted and asked whether the number of physical therapy sessions influenced the outcome. In the supervised exercise group (which we already know is the most beneficial), they found that 6 weeks of physical therapy occurring twice a week was more helpful in improving patient outcomes.

What Does That Mean for Me?

This study showed that better improvement in pain and function can occur if your rehab program is supervised and occurs twice weekly.