Comparison and critical evaluation of rehabilitation and home-based exercises for treating shoulder stiffness: prospective, multicenter study with 148 cases

Orthop Traumatol Surg Res. 2011 Dec;97(8 Suppl):S182-94. doi: 10.1016/j.otsr.2011.09.005. Epub 2011 Oct 28.


Introduction: The goal of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of individual exercises performed as classic rehabilitation or a home program on the clinical progression of patients with shoulder stiffness. Based on this information, the secondary goal was to develop a new rehabilitation protocol.

Patients and methods: This prospective, comparative series included 148 cases of shoulder stiffness. There were three treatment groups: T1: classic rehabilitation performed below the pain threshold (58 cases); T2: home program with provocation above the pain threshold (59 cases); T3: home program supervised by a physical therapist (31 cases). The execution, pain level and time spent doing each exercise were compiled for each work session - every day for the first 6 weeks, then every week up to 3 months. Clinical (Constant score) and range of motion evaluations were performed at enrollment, week 6 and month 3.Changes were compared between groups; correlation tests were used to analyse the effectiveness of each exercise during each session.

Results: Other than physical therapy and balneotherapy, classic rehabilitation exercises had a negative effect on clinical progression during the first 3 to 5 weeks (P<0.05), but this did not hinder the occurrence of a slow, continuous clinical improvement (P<0.05). Home programs led to rapid functional progression with improvement directly related to the number of exercises actually performed (P<0.05), however, pain during the day increased and pain at night decreased. Supervision by a physical therapist helped to optimize the home program, with the same result at week 6, but a better result at month 3 (P<0.05).

Conclusions: Based on the results of this study, a new treatment protocol for shoulder stiffness was proposed that combines an intensive patient home program with a well-informed physical therapist, who progressively adds classic rehabilitation techniques when they provide the best treatment value for each exercise. Patient education is the key to treatment success.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Balneology / methods*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Home Care Services / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Shoulder Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult