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16-04-2012 | General practice | Article

Shoulder massage effective treatment for stiff shoulders


Free abstract

MedWire News: Shoulder muscle massage is an effective treatment for patients with stiff shoulders, show study results.

Massage improved internal rotation range of motion (ROM), functional limitation, and muscle tightness compared with control treatment, report Jiu-jenq Lin (National Taiwan University, Taipei) and colleagues.

However, it is less effective in patients with longer duration of symptoms, higher functional limitation, and less posterior deltoid tightness.

Lin and team conducted a randomized controlled trial to investigate the effect of shoulder massage in the treatment of patients with posterior shoulder tightness and to identify the predictors of the effectiveness of massage in these patients.

In total, 52 patients completed the study (29 in the massage and 23 in the control group).

Patients in the massage group received an 18-minute massage on the posterior deltoid, infraspinatus, and teres minor of the involved shoulder (about 6 minutes for each muscle) twice weekly for 4 weeks. Patients in the control group received a light 10-minute "hand touch" to these muscles twice weekly for 4 weeks.

The main outcome measures were changes in glenohumeral internal rotation ROM, functional status (assessed using the Flexilevel Scale of Shoulder Function [FLEX-SF]), and muscle tightness.

The researchers found that the overall mean internal rotation ROM and self-reported FLEX-SF score increased significantly in the massage group compared with the control (54.9 vs 34.9° and 50.5 vs 31.7, respectively). The overall mean muscle tightness for the three muscle groups decreased significantly in the massage group compared with the control (0.42 vs 0.51 kg/mm).

Among those assigned to the massage group, 21 were classified as responsive to treatment (functional score improvement ≥20%) while eight were considered unresponsive.

Logistic regression showed that duration of symptoms, FLEX-SF scores, and posterior deltoid tightness were predictive of effective massage. Specifically, patients with less duration of symptoms, higher functional status (high FLEX-SF scores), and more tightness in the posterior deltoid had an increased likelihood for being responsive to massage treatment.

These findings "may help clinicians to decide whether massage is a worthy treatment for a patient with loss of internal rotation and posterior shoulder tightness," concludes the team in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders.

By Nikki Withers

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