New research published online March 28 in the journal Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation reports that patients who have undergone spinal surgery experience faster recovery and reduced pain by engaging in a series of short phone conversations with trained counselors. The purpose of the phone sessions is to ensure compliance with prescribed postsurgical physical therapy and exercise routines. The study authors, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, describe the intervention as a relatively simple and inexpensive means to attain better outcomes for patients who undergo spinal surgery.
The new study was prompted by previous research showing that many back surgery patients skimp or give up on physical therapy and home exercises. Up to 40% continue to experience postoperative pain mainly due to loss of muscle tone after years of suffering from back pain and reduced mobility of the spine. The problem is often compounded by surgical cuts made into the deep muscle tissue during back operations. The study involved 122 patients who underwent surgery to correct spinal stenosis between 2009 and 2012. One-half of the cohort received a series of phone counseling sessions from a trained spinal surgery counselor to discuss the importance of exercise in their recovery. Six months after surgery, 74% of patients who received phone counseling experienced significant improvements on standard measures of physical functioning and self-reported measures of pain, compared with 41% of those who did not receive phone calls.
Read a news story about the study findings here.