For people with chronic back pain, surgery is more effective in reducing pain that interferes with sexual activity, compared to non-surgical treatment, says a study. “Sex life is a relevant consideration for the majority of patients with degenerative spondylolisthesis and spinal stenosis,” said one of the researchers Shane Burch from the University of California-San Francisco, US. Patients with spinal stenosis or degenerative spondylolisthesis have narrowing of or pressure on the spinal canal, causing back pain, leg pain and other symptoms.
“Operative treatment leads to improved sex life-related pain,” in addition to reducing pain and disability from degenerative spinal conditions, the researchers said. The researchers analysed data from the Spine Outcomes Research Trial (SPORT), one of the largest clinical trials of surgery for spinal disorders. Patients meeting strict criteria for spinal stenosis or degenerative spondylolisthesis were randomly assigned to surgery or non-surgical treatment.
In the SPORT study, patients who did not improve with initial non-surgical treatment were offered the opportunity to “cross over” to surgical treatment. Of 825 patients who said that sexual function was relevant, 531 underwent some kind of surgery (spinal decompression or spinal fusion) while 294 received non-surgical treatment. Before treatment, 55 per cent of patients said they had at least some pain affecting their sex life. Three months after back surgery, less than 20 per cent of patients still had sex life-related pain. In contrast, about 40 per cent of patients treated without surgery still had pain with sexual activity. The improvement persisted through four years’ follow-up, said the study published in the journal Spine.