A recent study published in Spine indicates that physical therapy can be just as effective as neck surgery at improving function in people suffering from neck pain and radiculopathy (arm pain) from cervical disc disease.
The researchers examined 63 patients who had cervical radiculopathy with confirmed nerve impingement from a cervical disc displacement. The patients were randomized into two groups. One group received a structured physical therapy program, and the other group had a surgical procedure called and anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) followed by structured physical therapy. Forty-nine patients completed the study.
Outcome measures included neck range of motion, hand function, and neck muscle endurance and were taken before treatment and at the 3 month, 6 month, 12 month, and 24 month point. The researchers found that both groups showed improvement, and there was no statistical difference between the ACDF and physical therapy group in terms of neck muscle endurance, neck ROM, or hand function at the two year point.
If you have neck pain and arm symptoms associated with cervical disc displacement, your doctor may refer you to physical therapy. You should work closely with your PT to find the right treatment for your specific condition. Some conditions associated with herniated cervical discs do require surgery, so you should have an open discussion with your doctor and surgeon to make sure that it is the right treatment for you.