Those of you that are members in the APTA may have noticed a very interesting study that came out a few days ago. This research article discusses the outcomes of surgery versus physical therapy for patients suffering from cervical radiculopathy. The surgical procedure was anterior cervical decompression and fusion. Physical therapy included general/specific exercises and pain coping methods. After 1 year, the patients that underwent surgery had superior outcomes, but at 2 year follow-up, the outcomes were the same!
As you all know, the spinal cord is such a sensitive area. It is important that we minimize as much trauma as possible to the area. Cervical radiculopathy, in the past, has been a cause for surgery. The fact that evidence is emerging to justify conservative treatment trials prior to surgery is very exciting! Something to note from the study is the lack of manual therapy as one of the physical therapy interventions. It might be interesting to see how the addition of manual therapy alters any of the outcomes.