I'm on my college crew team this year. I have a herniated disc that has kept me from rowing. The doctor gave me two treatment choices: a lumbar fusion or an exercise program. Will I lose strength more with one over the other? I need both strength and endurance to keep up with the rest of the crew team.

Scientists are still sorting this all out. A group of researchers in Norway offer some new insight. They measured muscle strength, size, and endurance in two groups of back pain patients. One group had a lumbar fusion; the other tried an exercise program. The exercise program also had a lecture on anatomy and pain in the back.

The patients in the exercise group had the best result. They had greater muscle strength, density, and endurance. The results stayed the same even when measured a year later. The scientists aren't sure why the fusion group didn't do better. Recovery of some muscle strength is possible just with daily activities.

The muscle atrophy and weakness in the fusion group was more than the researchers expected to see.