Comparison of manual therapy techniques with therapeutic exercise in the treatment of shoulder impingement: a randomized controlled pilot clinical trial

J Man Manip Ther. 2008;16(4):238-47. doi: 10.1179/106698108790818314.


The purpose of this double-blind, randomized controlled pilot study was to compare the effectiveness of four physical therapy interventions in the treatment of primary shoulder impingement syndrome: 1) supervised exercise only, 2) supervised exercise with glenohumeral mobilizations, 3) supervised exercise with a mobilization-with-movement (MWM) technique, or 4) a control group receiving only physician advice. Thirty-three subjects diagnosed with primary shoulder impingement were randomly assigned to one of these four groups. Main outcome measures included 24-hour pain (VAS), pain with the Neer and Hawkins-Kennedy tests, shoulder active range of motion (AROM), and shoulder function (SPADI). Repeated-measures analyses indicated significant decreases in pain, improved function, and increases in AROM. Univariate analyses on the percentage of change from pre- to post-treatment for each dependent variable found no statistically significant differences (P<0.05) between the four groups. Although not significant, the MWM and mobilization groups had a higher percentage of change from pre- to post-treatment on all three pain measures (VAS, Neer, Hawkins-Kennedy). The three intervention groups had a higher percentage of change on the SPADI. The MWM group had the highest percentage of change in AROM, and the mobilization group had the lowest. This pilot study suggests that performing glenohumeral mobilizations and MWM in combination with a supervised exercise program may result in a greater decrease in pain and improved function although studies with larger samples and discriminant sampling methods are needed.

Keywords: Exercise; Glenohumeral Mobilization; Mobilization with Movement; Shoulder Impingement Syndrome.