OBJECTIVES: The authors aim to present when to do physical therapy or surgery in geriatric patients with degenerative lumbar stenosis. METHODS: The authors retrospectively analyzed 250 patients who underwent physical therapy due to lumbar degenerative stenosis between December 2014 and April 2017. The patients were divided into two groups: Central canal stenosis and lateral recess/foraminal stenosis groups. Visual analogue scale and neurological claudication values of both patient groups were evaluated before and after physical therapy. The association between comorbid diseases and the frequency of surgery was also evaluated. RESULTS: 142 of the patients were female and 108 were male, and the mean age of these patients was 69 years. The mean onset of symptoms was 55 months. In the visual analog scale value of patients after physical therapy, the authors observed decreases of 4-6° in patients with central canal stenosis and 2-3° in patients with lateral recess/foraminal stenosis. In addition, the authors observed that patients with lateral recess/foraminal stenosis together with diabetes mellitus benefit less from physical therapy. CONCLUSION: Physical therapy and rehabilitation play an important role in the treatment of lumbar stenosis. Physical therapy is the primary treatment option for patients who do not have motor muscle strength losses and incontinence and who have pain control through medications. The authors can consider surgical interventions in patients with lateral recess/foraminal stenosis who do not benefit from physical therapy at a satisfactory level.