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Best Path for Shoulder Pain Relief: Physical Therapy vs. Steroid Shots

March 14, 2024

Choosing the Best Path for Shoulder Pain Relief: Physical Therapy vs. Steroid Shots

In the quest for relief from shoulder pain, patients are often faced with a choice between two common treatments: physical therapy or steroid injections. While both options offer benefits, emerging evidence suggests that physical therapy may not only be a safer alternative for shoulder pain relief, but also provide longer-lasting relief compared to steroid shots.

Understanding Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain, a common complaint among adults, can stem from various causes, including rotator cuff injuries, arthritis, and bursitis. The complexity of the shoulder joint, which enjoys a wide range of motion, makes it susceptible to injury and wear-and-tear over time. Effective treatment aims not just to alleviate pain but also to address the underlying cause and prevent recurrence.

Short-Term Relief vs. Long-Term Health

Steroid injections, often praised for their quick shoulder pain relief capabilities, work by reducing inflammation in the shoulder. However, this quick fix comes with drawbacks. Studies have shown that while steroids can provide immediate pain relief, they do little to heal the underlying issue and may even contribute to further joint damage over time. Additionally, repeated use of steroid injections can weaken shoulder tissues, leading to potential complications such as tendon rupture.

On the other hand, physical therapy takes a more holistic approach. A tailored physical therapy program focuses on strengthening the muscles around the shoulder, improving flexibility, and increasing range of motion. This not only relieves shoulder pain but also works on the root cause of the issue, promoting healing and preventing future injuries. While physical therapy requires more time and commitment compared to the immediacy of steroid shots, the benefits are far-reaching and sustainable.

In addition, functional physical therapy looks to find the root cause of the shoulder pain, which can, surprisingly, be an area away from the shoulder such as the hips. By improving motion and function in the problematic area, the shoulder pain goes away.

Evidence-Based Support

Research underscores the long-term benefits of physical therapy. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine compared the effectiveness of steroid injections and physical therapy for treating shoulder pain. The findings indicated that while both treatments offered pain relief in the short term, patients who underwent physical therapy experienced more significant improvement in function and reduction in pain over the long term.

Furthermore, physical therapy offers an education component, empowering patients with knowledge and tools to manage their condition independently. This aspect of treatment is crucial for long-term health and well-being, something steroid injections cannot provide.

Considering the Side Effects

It's essential to consider the side effects associated with each treatment option. Steroid injections can lead to side effects such as joint infection, nerve damage, and thinning of nearby bone (osteoporosis), particularly with repeated use. Physical therapy, in contrast, carries minimal risks when performed under the guidance of a certified physical therapist. The most common side effects are temporary soreness or discomfort from the exercises, far outweighing the potential risks of steroid injections.

Making the Right Choice

Deciding between physical therapy and steroid injections for shoulder pain depends on individual circumstances, including the severity of the pain, underlying causes, and personal health goals. It's crucial to consult with healthcare professionals to understand the best course of action for your specific situation. However, for those seeking a safe, effective, and long-term solution to shoulder pain, physical therapy emerges as a compelling choice.


Get your FREE Book, "The Unveiled Truth: Secrets to Shoulder Pain Relief" By Dr Andrew Gorecki and Dr Be Fuson. Request your free book (shipping is free, too) here: Shoulder Pain Book | Superior Physical Therapy (thesuperiortherapy.com)


Check out this scientific study comparing physical therapy vs steroid shots: Corticosteroids vs Physio for Shoulder Impingement (physio-network.com)



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