A new study shows that physical therapy is as effective as steroid shots for the relief of shoulder pain. The researchers compared the two non-surgical approaches by randomly assigning 104 patients with shoulder pain between the ages of 18 and 65 to receive steroid injections or six sessions of physical therapy over 6 weeks. Participants in the study reported on their pain throughout the research study. A news report from HealthDay notes that during the year of the study, those receiving the injections could have as many as three.
Physical therapy for the participants included a combination of joint and soft-tissue manipulations, stretches, muscle contraction-relaxation techniques and exercises to promote movement in the shoulder, chest or neck, as indicated on the HealthDay news report. Patients were also given exercises they could do at home to reinforce therapy. In regards to the results of the study, lead researcher Daniel Rhon states, “Whether you had a steroid injection or physical therapy, the improvement in each group was the same.”
Rhon adds, “It was also a rather large improvement, about 50%, and this improvement was maintained for at least one year.” However, the results of the study show that the group that received injections utilized more health care services and had significantly more shoulder-related doctor visits during the year of the study, according to HealthDay.
Rhon also says 20% of those who got injections ended up going to physical therapy anyway, while 40% of those who received shots needed more than one injection. The HealthDay news report indicates that the findings may assure patients who prefer to avoid injections. Rhon says, “Some patients really do not like injections, so physical therapy may be a great and effective option.”