Changes in pain and pressure pain sensitivity after manual treatment of active trigger points in patients with unilateral shoulder impingement: a case series

J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2011 Oct;15(4):399-404. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2010.12.003. Epub 2011 Jan 17.


The aim of this case series was to investigate changes in pain and pressure pain sensitivity after manual treatment of active trigger points (TrPs) in the shoulder muscles in individuals with unilateral shoulder impingement. Twelve patients (7 men, 5 women, age: 25 ± 9 years) diagnosed with unilateral shoulder impingement attended 4 sessions for 2 weeks (2 sessions/week). They received TrP pressure release and neuromuscular interventions over each active TrP that was found. The outcome measures were pain during arm elevation (visual analogue scale, VAS) and pressure pain thresholds (PPT) over levator scapulae, supraspinatus infraspinatus, pectoralis major, and tibialis anterior muscles. Pain was captured pre-intervention and at a 1-month follow-up, whereas PPT were assessed pre- and post-treatment, and at a 1-month follow-up. Patients experienced a significant (P < 0.001) reduction in pain after treatment (mean ± SD: 1.3 ± 0.5) with a large effect size (d > 1). In addition, patients also experienced a significant increase in PPT immediate after the treatment (P < 0.05) and one month after discharge (P < 0.01), with effect sizes ranging from moderate (d = 0.4) to large (d > 1).A significant negative association (r(s) = -0.525; P = 0.049) between the increase in PPT over the supraspinatus muscle and the decrease in pain was found: the greater the decrease in pain, the greater the increase in PPT. This case series has shown that manual treatment of active muscle TrPs can help to reduce shoulder pain and pressure sensitivity in shoulder impingement. Current findings suggest that active TrPs in the shoulder musculature may contribute directly to shoulder complaint and sensitization in patients with shoulder impingement syndrome, although future randomized controlled trials are required.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Manipulation, Osteopathic / methods*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain Threshold
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / complications*
  • Shoulder Pain / etiology*
  • Shoulder Pain / therapy*
  • Trigger Points*