Nonsurgical Treatment Choices by Individuals with Lumbar Intervertebral Disc Herniation in the United States

Anne Thackeray*, Julie M. Fritz, Jon D. Lurie, Wenyan Zhao, James N. Weinstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objectives The objectives of this study were to (1) evaluate differences between patients with lumbar intervertebral disc herniation who received physical therapy (PT) and those who did not; (2) identify factors associated with receiving PT; and (3) examine the influence of PT on clinical outcomes over the course of 1 yr. Design An observational cohort study using data from the Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial was conducted. This study included 363 patients with intervertebral disc herniation who received nonsurgical management within 6 wks of enrollment. Baseline characteristics were compared between patients who received PT and those who did not. Multivariate logistic regression examined factors predictive of patients receiving PT. Mixed effects models were used to compare primary outcomes (Short-Form Survey 36 bodily pain and physical function and modified Oswestry Index) at 3 and 6 mos and 1 yr after enrollment. Results Forty percent of the nonsurgical cohort received PT. Higher disability scores, neurological deficit, and patient preference predicted PT use. Compared with other nonsurgical management strategies, standard care PT was not associated with a significant difference in pain, disability, or surgery over 1 yr. Conclusions Many patients with intervertebral disc herniation seek secondary care for persisting symptoms and pursue nonsurgical management. The best management strategy is unclear and further research is needed to examine appropriate sequencing and selection of treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)557-564
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017


  • low back pain
  • lumbar radiculopathy
  • physical therapy
  • sciatica

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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