A retrospective, descriptive study of shoulder outcomes in outpatient physical therapy

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2006 Jun;36(6):403-14. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2006.2101.


Study design: A retrospective, descriptive study of clients with shoulder dysfunction referred to physical therapy.

Objectives: To (1) describe the clinical and functional outcomes of clients with shoulder dysfunction following outpatient physical therapy, and (2) to compare the outcomes by type of shoulder dysfunction.

Background: Although individuals with shoulder dysfunction are commonly referred to physical therapy few large descriptive studies regarding outcomes following physical therapy are available.

Methods and measures: Data for 878 clients (468 female, 410 male) were retrieved and analyzed. This database was developed between 1997 and 2000 and included 4 outpatient facilities from 1 healthcare system in the southwest corner of Michigan. Clients were classified by type of shoulder dysfunction, and standardized tests were performed upon admittance and discharge to physical therapy. Descriptive and inferential statistics were calculated for all data.

Results: Of all clients, 55.1% had shoulder impingement, while 18.3% had postoperative repair, 8.9% had a frozen shoulder, 7.6% had a rotator cuff tear, 3.0% had shoulder instability, 2.1% were post fracture, and the remaining 4.9% had miscellaneous diagnoses. The average (+/-SD) age of the patients was 53.6 +/- 16.4 years, with an average (+/-SD) number of treatment sessions of 13.7 +/- 11.0. All groups showed significant changes following physical therapy intervention.

Conclusions: Clients with diverse types of shoulder dysfunction demonstrated improvement in both clinical and functional measures at the conclusion of physical therapy, although it is not possible to determine whether these changes were due to the interventions or due to time. The type of shoulder dysfunction appears to affect the prognosis, thus expected outcomes should be based upon initial diagnosis and specific measures.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care
  • Databases as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Michigan
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Shoulder Injuries*