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The Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial is a five-year study that looked at three of the most common back conditions and compared surgical and non-surgical treatments.

Approximately 2500 patients took part in the study, which was conducted at 13 sites across the country.

What are the conditions SPORT studied?

  • Intervertebral disc herniation, commonly known as a slipped or ruptured disc. A herniated disc is a painful back condition that occurs when some of the disc material in the backbone pops out of place and bulges into the spinal canal. It is also known as a herniated lumbar or ruptured disc.
  • Spinal stenosis. The spinal canal runs through the vertebrae and contains the nerves supplying sensation and strength to the legs. Between the vertebrae are the intervertebral discs and the spinal facet joints. As people age, there can be a drying out and shrinking of the disc spaces between the bones (80% of the disc is made up of water). You can feel pain anywhere along your back or leg when the nerve is pressed in this way.
  • Degenerative spondylolisthesis (spon-dee-low-lis-thee-sis) is a condition in which a vertebrae in the spine slips forward out of alignment. It is caused by degeneration of both the disc and the facet joint, which allows the vertebrae to move out of place.

The spine is made up of 24 small bones (vertebrae) that are stacked on top of each other to create the spinal column. Between each vertebra is a soft, gel-like cushion called a disc, which helps to absorb pressure and keeps the bones from rubbing against each other.

The spine itself has three main segments: the cervical spine at the top (seven bones, including the neck), the thoracic spine in the middle (12 bones), and the lumbar spine at the bottom (five or six bones).

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