Shoulder pain in hemiplegia revisited: contribution of functional electrical stimulation and other therapies

J Rehabil Med. 2003 Mar;35(2):49-54; quiz 56. doi: 10.1080/16501970306111.


Objectives: Post-stroke shoulder pain is probably the most frequent complication in hemiplegia and has repercussions on motor rehabilitation and the psychological equilibrium of the patient. The strategies for prevention and treatment are presented.

Aetiology: Among the various factors contributing to the occurrence of shoulder pain in hemiplegia, some are related to the joint, such as lesion of the rotator cuff tendons, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, inferior-anterior subluxation of the head of the humerus, whereas others are related to the neurologic lesion such as central post-stroke pain, lack of sensibility, unilateral neglect and spasticity.

Prevention: Efforts should be made from the start to keep the shoulder in an ideal position at all times and movement of the shoulder and upper limb should be carried out with care.

Treatment: Will be aimed to the cause of pain and passive or active range of motion exercises will be encouraged. Physical, medical and surgical treatments have improved over the last few decades. Functional electrical stimulation in patients with shoulder pain and subluxation, applied early after onset of the stroke, has shown beneficial positive effects on subluxation, pain and mobility. Efforts should therefore be made to better understand the post-stroke shoulder pain in order to provide better outcomes of rehabilitation and thus improve quality of life for patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Hemiplegia / complications*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Spasticity
  • Pain Measurement
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / methods
  • Prognosis
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Shoulder Dislocation / etiology
  • Shoulder Dislocation / physiopathology
  • Shoulder Dislocation / rehabilitation*
  • Shoulder Pain / etiology
  • Shoulder Pain / physiopathology
  • Shoulder Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Stroke / complications
  • Treatment Outcome