Matthew Smuck, chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation, and an associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at Stanford University, who also wasn’t involved in the study, agreed. He pointed out that epidural corticosteroid treatments aren’t meant to be long-term solutions for radiculopathy and spinal stenosis, but rather temporary pain relievers patients can use while they heal. He advised spine practitioners to prescribe them only if the first-line treatment for low back pain, which usually consists of therapy and over-the-counter painkillers, don’t work.
Researchers gave shoulder pain sufferers either one shot of steroids or six PT sessions over three weeks and then monitored their progress throughout the next year. The two treatments worked equally well. On average, both groups saw 50 percent improvement in their pain levels and shoulder functionality. However, almost 40 percent of the injection group required additional shots to ease their pain, and 19 percent wound up needing physical therapy anyway. All of this, plus the fact that there are health risks involved with injections, leads the researchers to side with physical therapy.