Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

General Spine News

Treading Lightly to Ease Back Pain

The delivery of medicine and health care has taken a turn in the United States. There is a push for evidence that shows specific results for each treatment method. This is called evidence-based medicine or evidence-based practice.

This new direction has resulted in much more research. For example, when it comes to back pain caused by a herniated disc, the results 10 years after surgery show equal results for those who didn't have surgery. This information shows the need to find ways to treat back pain patients without surgery whenever possible.

Physical therapists are part of the trend toward evidence-based practice. There is a new traction device available called partial body weight support (PBWS). PBWS is a harness device that can help people walk on a treadmill with less weight placed through the spine and legs. Before using this with everyone who has back and leg pain, therapists are finding out who is helped the most and why.

The first studies started with a small number of people to see if it's worth trying on a larger number of people. A group of therapists looked at the results of using PBWS with six adults. Everyone in the study had low back pain that was increased by sitting, standing, and walking. The PBWS was used to reduce the load on the spine during walking and to allow the patients to walk longer distances (endurance).

Pain was reduced in all the patients. All but one improved in function. There was good carryover of improvement six weeks later. The positive results of this small study signal the go-ahead to study this treatment method with a larger number of back pain patients.


David Joffe, PT, MS, et al. Treadmill Ambulation With Partial Body Weight Support for the Treatment of Low Back and Leg Pain. In Journal of Orthopaedic Sports & Physical Therapy. May 2002. Vol. 32. No. 5. pp. 202-215.

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*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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