Twelve-year follow-up of a randomized controlled trial of comprehensive physiotherapy following disc herniation operation

Clin Rehabil. 2015 Jun;29(6):548-60. doi: 10.1177/0269215514552032. Epub 2014 Oct 6.


Objective: To evaluate the long-term effects of postoperative comprehensive physiotherapy starting one week after lumbar disc surgery.

Design: Twelve-year follow-up of a three-armed, randomized, controlled, single-blinded clinical trial.

Setting: Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.

Participants: Of 111 patients following first-time, uncomplicated lumbar disc surgery who participated in the original study and completed the treatment originally allocated, 74 ((67%; 29 (73%) physiotherapy, 22 (58%) sham therapy, 23 (68%) no therapy) completed a 12-year follow-up examination.

Interventions: In the original study, patients had been randomly assigned to comprehensive physiotherapy, sham intervention (neck massage), or no therapy.

Measures: Low Back Pain Rating Scale; best score 0, worst score 130 points).

Results: At 12 years after surgery, the group participating in comprehensive physiotherapy had significantly better functional outcomes, as rated on the Low Back Pain Rating Score, than the untreated group (mean difference: -13.2 (95% CI: (-25.4; -1.0)). Equally, there was a clinically relevant, non-significant difference between the sham therapy and no therapy (mean difference: -12.5 (95%CI: -26.1; 1.1)). Consequently, the Low Back Pain Rating Score outcome did not differ between physiotherapy and sham therapy (mean difference: -0.7 (95%CI: -14.2; 12.8)).

Conclusions: Participating in a comprehensive physiotherapy program following lumbar disc surgery may be associated with better long-term health benefits over no intervention, but may not be superior to sham therapy.

Keywords: Disc herniation surgery; exercise therapy; long-term outcome; physiotherapy; randomized.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / rehabilitation*
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / surgery*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae*
  • Male
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Time Factors