PT just as effective as Surgery for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Posted On: April 16, 2015

I am Dr. David Johnson a chiropractor and physical therapist in Highland Park and Lake Bluff. I am the director of North Shore Spinal and Sports Rehabilitation. I started as a chiropractor in Lake Forest, Il in 1988. I integrated physical therapy into my practice in 1990.

Physical therapy is just as effective as surgery for patients with lumbar spinal stenosis. This was the finding of a study by Anthony Delitto, PT, PhD and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh published in this month’s issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. (

The study found that in patients whom were deemed as surgical candidates, they did just as well in a standardized physical therapy program as they did in surgery. This is exciting news for those of us who work in the industry and for patients who suffer from lumbar spinals stenosis.

When I reviewed the study by Dr. Delitto I was happy to see that he follows a very similar protocol as to the one that we follow at North Shore Spinal and Sports Rehabilitation. I originally set up our protocol based on a large case series published by Donald Murphy, DC back in 2006. In his study he helped 2/3 of the patients with lumbar spinal stenosis by combining chiropractic and physical therapy. (

Surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis is warranted in many cases. It is however, in my opinion, that conservative care should be exhausted first. Even if someone fails at conservative care, I believe that another round with a different provider may be appropriate. Not all therapists are experienced or as well read as others.

There currently is a big problem in our country with too many elderly patients receiving complicated spinal surgeries to relieve the symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis. Richard Deyo, MD in 2010 published a retrospective study in the Journal of the American Medical Association sheading light on this large problem. (

I have lectured on this topic to both the Highland Park and Lake Forest Senior Centers, urging those with this condition to seek conservative care first. It is not that physical therapy can help everyone, but it is true that it helps many people with lumbar spinal stenosis or resultant sciatic problems. I see it as a personal mission to try and help as many of these patients as I can through education and by delivering the most effective evidence based care.

We all owe Dr. Delitto a huge thank you for his work.

To learn more about our practice visit us at To schedule an appointment, please call our Lake Forest, Lake Bluff office at 847.295.0920, or our Highland Park office at 847.432.4077. 

You may also use our online Request an Appointment form.

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