Objective: To evaluate the effect of percutaneous neuromuscular electrical stimulation (P-NMES) of the shoulder muscles on shoulder pain intensity and health-related quality of life in chronic hemiplegia.
Design: Prospective, open label design.
Setting: The outpatient services of a large teaching rehabilitation hospital in The Netherlands.
Subjects: Fifteen stroke survivors with chronic (> six months) hemiplegia and a therapy-resistant painful shoulder with subluxation. All patients suffered from clinically relevant shoulder pain, as assessed by a score of at least 4 out of 10 on a numerical rating scale. Shoulder subluxation was indicated by at least 1/2 fingerbreadth of glenohumeral separation on palpation.
Intervention: Six hours of P-NMES per day for a total of six weeks.
Main outcome measures: Shoulder pain (Brief Pain Inventory), shoulder subluxation (clinical and radiographic), shoulder pain-free external rotation (hand-held goniometer), motor impairment (Fugl-Meyer Motor test) and quality of life (SF-36) were assessed before treatment, after six weeks of intramuscular stimulation, at three months and six months follow-up.
Results: A significant reduction in pain was found on the Brief Pain Inventory. Pain reduction was still present at six months follow-up. All domains, in particular bodily pain, of the SF-36 showed improvement in the short term. After six months of follow-up, bodily pain was still strongly and significantly reduced, whereas social functioning and role physical demonstrated a nonsignificant improvement of more than 10% compared with baseline.
Conclusion: This pilot suggests that P-NMES potentially reduces shoulder pain in chronic hemiplegia. To establish the clinical value of P-NMES in treating hemiplegic shoulder pain a randomized controlled trial is needed.