Study design: This is a prospective cohort study with a follow-up period of 6 months.
Objective: To describe the interventions applied by physical therapists in treating patients with complaints of the arm, neck, and/or shoulder.
Summary of background data: Complaints of the arm, neck, and/or shoulder occur frequently and are usually treated within primary care. Many patients with these complaints are treated with physical therapy.
Methods: During a 1-year period, the participating physiotherapists included new consulters with musculoskeletal complaints of the upper extremity. The patients completed a questionnaire at baseline, and the physical therapists completed a treatment record for up to 6 months.
Results: Of the 624 patients included in the cohort, physical therapists provided treatment data of 619 patients. The main treatment consisted of exercise therapy (93%) and massage (87%), or a combination of both. More patients with specific complaints received physical methods, and patients with nonspecific complaints were treated with manipulation techniques.
Conclusions: The primary treatment of complaints the of arm, neck, and/or shoulder in physiotherapy practice consists of exercise therapy and massage therapy, mostly being a combination of both. Future studies should focus on the effectiveness of exercise therapies, combined or not combined with massage, for patients with complaints of the arm, neck, and/or shoulder.