The effect of anterior versus posterior glide joint mobilization on external rotation range of motion in patients with shoulder adhesive capsulitis

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2007 Mar;37(3):88-99. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2007.2307.


Study design: Randomized clinical trial.

Objective: To compare the effectiveness of anterior versus posterior glide mobilization techniques for improving shoulder external rotation range of motion (ROM) in patients with adhesive capsulitis.

Background: Physical therapists use joint mobilization techniques to treat motion impairments in patients with adhesive capsulitis. However, opinions of the value of anterior versus posterior mobilization procedures to improve external rotation ROM differ.

Methods and measures: Twenty consecutive subjects with a primary diagnosis of shoulder adhesive capsulitis and exhibiting a specific external rotation ROM deficit were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 treatment groups. All subjects received 6 therapy sessions consisting of application of therapeutic ultrasound, joint mobilization, and upper-body ergometer exercise. Treatment differed between groups in the direction of the mobilization technique performed. Shoulder external rotation ROM measured initially and after each treatment session was compared within and between groups and analyzed using a 2-way ANOVA, followed by paired and independent t tests.

Results: There was no significant difference in shoulder external rotation ROM between groups prior to initiating the treatment program. A significant difference between groups (P = .001) was present by the third treatment. The individuals in the anterior mobilization group had a mean improvement in external rotation ROM of 3.0 degrees (SD, 10.8 degrees; P = .40), whereas the individuals in the posterior mobilization group had a mean improvement of 31.3 degrees (SD, 7.4 degrees; P < .001).

Conclusions: A posteriorly directed joint mobilization technique was more effective than an anteriorly directed mobilization technique for improving external rotation ROM in subjects with adhesive capsulitis. Both groups had a significant decrease in pain.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomechanical Phenomena*
  • Bursitis / complications
  • Bursitis / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Stretching Exercises / methods*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Prone Position
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology*
  • Shoulder Joint / physiopathology*
  • Shoulder Pain / etiology
  • Shoulder Pain / rehabilitation
  • Supine Position
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonic Therapy