A study recently published in the journal Spine (2013) compared the effectiveness and outcomes of neck surgery and physical therapy (PT). The results may help guide you in determining the appropriate course of care for you.
Comparison of two treatments for “cervical radiculopathy” (neck pain with shooting pains into one or both arms)—
Group 1: 31underwent anterior disc fusion for neck pain and PT
Group 2: 32 subjects received PT only
At 24 months follow-up both groups had significant improvements in neck and arm pain and function.
While both groups improved, it is interesting to note that invasive surgery is no better than conservative care in physical therapy. Not only is PT effective, but it also is associated with fewer side effects than surgery as well as lower healthcare costs.
There are always certain cases where surgery may be required (instability, for example), but make sure you discuss all of your options (conservative and invasive) with your doctor to make the right decision for you and your goals.
Cole Racich, PT, DPT, OCS