Shoulder pain in hemiplegia: results from a national rehabilitation hospital in Turkey

Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2004 Sep;83(9):713-9. doi: 10.1097/01.phm.0000138739.18844.88.


Objective: Shoulder pain is a common complication after stroke that can limit the patients' ability to reach their maximum functional potential and impede rehabilitation. The aim of our study was to examine the occurrence of hemiplegic shoulder pain in a group of Turkish patients and clarify contributing factors such as glenohumeral subluxation, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, tonus changes, motor functional level, limitation in shoulder range of motion, thalamic pain, neglect, and time since onset of hemiplegia. The effect of shoulder pain on the duration of rehabilitation stay was also identified.

Design: A total of 85 consecutive patients with hemiplegia admitted to a national rehabilitation center were evaluated for the presence of shoulder pain. A brief history of pain was taken for each patient, and each patient was evaluated by radiographic and ultrasonographic examination. The subjects with shoulder pain were compared with those without pain in regard to certain of the above variables.

Results: Of the 85 patients with stroke, 54 patients (54/85, 63.5%) were found to have shoulder pain. Shoulder pain was significantly more frequent in subjects with reflex sympathetic dystrophy, lower motor functional level of shoulder and hand (P < 0001), subluxation, and limitation of external rotation and flexion of shoulder (P < 0,05). Age was also a significant factor in the development of shoulder pain. We were unable to demonstrate a significant relationship between shoulder pain and sex, time since onset of disease, hemiplegic side, pathogenesis, spasticity, neglect, and thalamic pain. There was no prolongation of rehabilitation stay in patients with shoulder pain.

Conclusion: These results indicate that shoulder pain is a frequent complication after stroke and that it may develop from a variety of factors. To prevent and alleviate shoulder pain, efforts should be directed toward proper positioning of the shoulder, range of motion activities, and the avoidance of immobilization.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Hemiplegia / complications*
  • Hemiplegia / epidemiology
  • Hemiplegia / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Spasticity / etiology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Prevalence
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy / etiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Shoulder Dislocation / etiology
  • Shoulder Pain / epidemiology
  • Shoulder Pain / etiology*
  • Shoulder Pain / physiopathology*
  • Stroke / complications*
  • Stroke / epidemiology
  • Stroke Rehabilitation*
  • Time Factors
  • Turkey / epidemiology