Chronic neck pain is a global problem, and unfortunately, the incidences of neck pain are only increasing. Neck pain is one of the leading causes of pain, disability, and even economic costs.
While those facts may seem anything but uplifting, the good news is that there are many treatments for neck pain, including lifestyle modifications, medications, stem cell therapy, minimally invasive treatments, and, if needed, surgery.
The question is which one should you consider?
Dr. John Regan and the team at Spine Group Beverly Hills are here to help patients in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica, California. Below, we highlight two of the most common treatments for chronic neck pain 一 physical therapy and steroid injections 一 and share tips for when you might consider each one.
When to consider physical therapy for neck pain
Physical therapy, an umbrella term that covers different types of modalities, stretches, and exercises, is a common treatment for chronic neck pain.
The goals of physical therapy may vary depending on the root cause of your neck pain, but common goals include improved range of motion, reduced pain, reduced stiffness, and reduced risk of future occurrences of pain by strengthening the muscles in your neck.
You might consider physical therapy for neck pain if you have:
- Muscle tension or strained neck muscles
- Tech neck or whiplash
- Had a steroid injection and you want to prevent future neck issues
- Had surgery on your neck
- Tried at-home treatments (such as heating pads) but still need more help reducing your pain
Physical therapy isn’t always the first line of defense, but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from it. If your neck is too unstable for exercise, Dr. Regan may recommend surgery followed by physical therapy. In this case, physical therapy can help you recover from surgery, improve function in your neck, and reduce pain in the future.
When to consider steroid injections for neck pain
A steroid injection contains a local anesthetic (for pain relief) and a corticosteroid (for inflammation reduction). Steroid injections can help reduce inflammation related to strained muscles, pinched nerves, and joint issues such as arthritis.
You might consider a steroid injection if you:
- Have a condition that responds well to steroid injections (e.g., osteoarthritis or radiculopathy)
- Have already tried medication or physical therapy with little relief
- Have already tried lifestyle modifications with little relief
If you have a bleeding disorder or previous allergic reactions to steroid shots, steroid shots might not be right for you.
The best of both worlds
In some cases, you won’t have to choose between physical therapy and steroid injections. Combining steroid injections and physical therapy may be the solution for you. In addition to injections and physical therapy, you may also benefit from improving your sleep posture and eating more anti-inflammatory foods to help manage arthritis.
How steroid injections and physical therapy work together
The local anesthetic included in steroid injections provides short-term relief, while the steroid reduces inflammation. Physical therapy helps strengthen your neck muscles, improve your range of motion, and alleviate neck pain in the long term.
You may opt for steroid injections to help reduce acute inflammation and pain so you can focus on other treatments (like your physical therapy exercises) and lifestyle modifications.
The good news is that you don’t have to go through this decision process alone. Dr. Regan recommends the most effective treatment or combination of treatments based on the source of your neck pain and the severity of your symptoms.
Find out if physical therapy or steroid injections are right for you. Book an appointment at our Santa Monica, California office today or call us directly at 424-238-3281.