Treatment of arm, neck, and/or shoulder complaints in physical therapy practice

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2006 Aug 1;31(17):E584-9. doi: 10.1097/01.brs.0000229229.54704.77.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arm*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / therapy*
  • Neck*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Professional Practice*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Shoulder*