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Can Spinal Surgery be Prevented by Aggressive Strengthening Exercise?


    This research study included patients recommended for spinal surgery to see if they can avoid the surgery by undergoing an aggressive strengthening program. The study was attempting to demonstrate the effect strength training has on low back pain. Patients’ progress was tracked throughout the strength program and the success was documented at the end of the study.


    With emerging research into spinal injuries, low back and neck pain, and more, healthcare professionals are starting to entertain the idea of nonoperative treatment. Surgery is more expensive and has significantly less success than noninvasive treatment. There has been documented success of treating long-term chronic low back pain through strengthening and aggressive exercise however there has not been any research conducted on aggressive strengthening programs on patients who have been recommended for surgery.

    This study included over 600 patients with cervical or lumbar pain. After preliminary background information, 60 patients met the inclusion criteria for the study. The program included exercise rehabilitation and isometric strength testing. This isolated the areas of the patients’ spines to determine spinal muscle strength in each individual. Patients were seen twice a week for one hour. Patients also performed other dynamic exercises that targeted other areas of the body. Several different aspects of observation were noted including static strength at predetermined points throughout range of motion and dynamic endurance. After the strengthening program, providers followed up with the patients to determine if they had surgery or not.

    Dynamic endurance had a significant increase among the subjects who were prior surgical candidates before participating in the study. Of the original surgical candidates completing the program, only 3 still ended up needing surgery in the follow up period. All 3 surgical patients were lumbar patients. None of the cervical patients had surgery in the follow-up period. Both surgery and the aggressive strengthening programs are viable options. Depending on the needs of your patient, an accurate treatment plan can be created.