chronic shoulder pain

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CHRONIC SHOULDER PAIN AND REHABILITATIONAuthor: PT Miguel Felipe Alonso Prez Termas de Cuntis Leonardo Proyect:Thermal Baths for Active Ageing Termas de Cuntis May 4-7, 2012


Shoulder pain has been found to be the third most frequent musculoeskeletal complaint in general practice. Is defined as chronic when it has been present for longer than six mounths Neck/shoulder disorders are also a frequent cause of work absetnteeism and claims for sickness benefits. Treatment represents a strain for the health-care resources Shoulder pain can be seriosly disabling: severe limitations of the range of motion affect dramatically activities of daily living. In elderly this condition is often worsed by other joint dysfunctions


16 % in general population 21 % in elderly 10-25 / 1000 new cases per year Both male / female equal affected The overall number of individuals with rotator cuff dysfunction is expected to grow coincident to an aging population that is increasingly active and less willing to accept functional limitations... Arthritis & Rheumatism, December 2004


Rotator cuff disorders / impingement (> 85 %) Adhesive capsulitis Glenohumeral osteoarthritis Glenohumeral instability Acromioclavicular joint pathology Others: systemic conditions, referred pain from neck, etc... As it is the most frequent clinical condition, we have focused our research in rotator cuff disorders.


90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 Rotator Cuff Impingement Adhesive capsulitis Acromioclavicular Referred pain/othersPercentage

Note about terminology

In many papers reviewed, the terms impingement syndrome and rotator cuff pathology were used indistinctly. Although we use them at the same way, technically mean different conditions

Rotator cuff disease was described by Codmann in 1934 as damage in healthy (traumatic) or aged (degenerated) tendons of supraspinatus, subscapularis, infraspinatus or teres minor Charles Neer introduced in 1972 the concept of impingement as a mechanic entrapment of the rotator cuff in the subacromial space, initially reversible, that leads to shoulder pain and tendon tears


Not fully undestood at cellular and molecular point of view Extrinsic theoriy (anatomic variables):

Acromial morphogenic characteristics Os acromiale Acromial spurs Tensile overload Primary degeneration (aginig) Microvascular supply

Intrinsic theory (tendon or bursa itself)


It is considered that degenerative changes in tendon tissue are the principal factor of clinical development in rotator cuff disorders Although the role of inflammation in the rotator cuff remains unclear, cytokines were founded to be associated with pain, size of tendon tears, bursal thickening/fibrosis and synovitis As mineral waters and mud therapies could modulate the inmunitary response, we believe that this agents may be used to decrease pain and improve functional status


Interleukin-1 contributes to synovitis and bursitis Il-10 and Il-6 are present in subacromial bursa in patients withh rotator cuff tears, and participate in angiogenesis TNF- is increased in bursitis MMP-1, MMP-9 and MMP-13 are increased in supraspinatus full-thickness tears COX-1 and COX-2 are present in bursa and synovium in patients with rotator cuff tear


Recent Cochrane review shows that, if there is no absolute indications or contraindications for surgery, none of the existing management protocols can be chosen rationally (surgery or conservative) Most patients with chronic shoulder pain may improve with nonoperative tratment (level B of evidence) There is little evidence to support or refute the use of corticosteroid injections (level B) Physical therapy can provide improved short term recovery and long-term function for rotator cuff disorders (level B)


Even in acute traumatic tears of the rotator cuff in previously healthy shoulders (a classical indication for surgery), operative treatment could be delayed at least 3 mounth with the same results than early surgery There is an increasing prevalence of assymptomatic tears with advancing age. A cadaveric study shows 25 % of full-thickness rotator cuff tear prevalence There seens to be no clear consensous regarding indications for rotator cuff surgery Symptoms duration before surgery have an average of 6-12 mounths (more than 48 papers reviewed)


20 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 1-6 6-12 12-18 18-24 24-30 30-36 MOUNTHSN. of papers


50 85 Imignement conservative Rotator cuff tears conservative Total surgical



Surgery has the highest rate of succes in rotator cuff disorders management. Despite this, conservative treatment is indicated in most of the patients due to the following:

5-6 % of recurrent rupture, that leads to revision repair Less ability of tendon healing in elder patients (not fully proved) 4 % of postoperative stiffness (defined by < 80 % of ROM compared with contralateral shoulder) 1 % surgical wound infections 1 % nerve damaged 0.5 % deltoid intraoperative avulsion


In small / medium size rotator cuff tears, physiotherapy is recomended as initial management in most of the guidelines and reviews In symptomatic large tears, surgery could be the first initial treatment. Howevwer, according to results, at least 3 mounths of conservative management should be taken into account Pain relief and restoration of functions have been observed in 62-74 % of patisnts with symptomatic, radiologically proven rotator cuff tears (treatments also include antiinflamatory medication and/or corticoesteroid injetions)


Physiotherapy is considered useful in the following three different clinical situations:

After an acute rotator cuff tear In chronic shoulder pain After surgery Although surgery is more frequently performed after traumatic rotator cuff tears in young to middle aged patients, there is an increasing number of interventions on elder population


Relief pain: questionaires show that is the most important factor in patients perception of disease. It has an important role in the next three them Recover range of motion (ROM). Tipically, active ROM is affected in rotator cuff disorders, but some patients have concomitant stiffness that decreases passive ROM Improve streinght Restore function: reduction in function may be substantial, including an inability to dress, atend to personal hygiene and use utensils to eat


According to literature, at least 40 assessment tools are avaliable for shoulder pathologies:

American Shoulder and Elbow Society (ASES), Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH), Shoulder Pain and Disability Index (SPADI), Constant-Murley Score... are samples of non specific evaluation tools Oxford Shoulder Questionaire is specific for surgery Western Ontario Osteoarthritis of the Shoulder (WOOS), Shoulder Instability Questionaire(SIQ) are specific for each pathology


No standarized protocol exists for rotator cuff tendinopathy. Currently, 3 phases treatment was performed:

Phase 1: analgesic techniques and activity modification Phase 2: gentle ROM exercises to prevent adhesions Phase 3: strengthening of rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers

Physical therapy encompasses a large range of treatments. There are therapeutic modalities designed to aliviate pain direcly (heat, ice, massage, dry needling, ultrasonid, iontophoresis), and stretching and strenghtening exercises to improve to improve shoulder function


Recent Cochrane review showed that stretching and strenghtening provide improved short-term recovery and longterm function in patients with rotator cuff disease A recent study showed that specific exercise for rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers are better than unspecific in patients with impingement syndrome Specific strenghtening program reduces need for surgery in patients with impingement syndrome Early active (since 1st. week) mobilisation reduces pain and improves function after arthroscopic rotator cuff repair Progressive resistance training improve symptoms in patients with impingement syndrome

SPECIFIC EXERCISE: mean change within groups (baseline to 3 mounths)

40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 -5 Specific Unspecific

CM score

DASH score

VAS rest

VAS activity

VAS night


Manual therapies have been found to be effective in addition to exercise programs (improving ASES score). Hand therapies include thrust manipulations, soft tissue mobilisations, massage and neuromuscular techniques Myofascial trigger points could play an inportant role in pain and disfunction of the neck and shoulder. An RCT shows that therapies focused on trigger points inactivation improve pain and functional status in patients with chronic shoulder pain In our expeience, dry needleing or acupuncture are effective in chronic shoulder pain, probably by gate control mechanism or by desensibilisation of trigger points. An spanish RCT was started in 2009, but results have not been published


TENS: improve function and decrease pain (recent trial compared TENS vs. corticosteroid injection: TENS was slightly less effective at short term) Ultrasound therapy: no e

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