The therapeutic role of motor imagery on the functional rehabilitation of a stage II shoulder impingement syndrome

Disabil Rehabil. 2014;36(13):1113-9. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2013.833309. Epub 2014 Feb 28.


Purpose: Motor imagery (MI) has been used as a complementary therapeutic tool for motor recovery after central nervous system disease and peripheral injuries. However, it has never been used as a preventive tool. We investigated the use of MI in the rehabilitation of stage II shoulder impingement syndrome. For the first time, MI is used before surgery.

Method: Sixteen participants were randomly assigned to either a MI or control group. Shoulder functional assessment (Constant score), range of motion and pain were measured before and after intervention.

Results: Higher Constant score was observed in the MI than in the control group (p=0.04). Participants in the MI group further displayed greater movement amplitude (extension (p<0.001); flexion (p=0.025); lateral rotation (p<0.001). Finally, the MI group showed greater pain decrease (p=0.01).

Conclusion: MI intervention seems to alleviate pain and enhance mobility, this is probably due to changes in muscle control and consequently in joint amplitude. MI might contribute to postpone or even protect from passing to stage III that may require surgery. Implications for Rehabilitation Adding motor imagery training to classical physical therapy in a stage II impingement syndrome: Helps in alleviating pain Enhances shoulder mobility Motor imagery is a valuable technique that can be used as a preventive tool before the stage III of the impingement syndrome.

Keywords: Motor imagery; shoulder impingement syndrome; shoulder mobility.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Diclofenac / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / rehabilitation*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Diclofenac