Scapular kinematics pre- and post-thoracic thrust manipulation in individuals with and without shoulder impingement symptoms: a randomized controlled study

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2014 Jul;44(7):475-87. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2014.4760. Epub 2014 May 22.


Study design: Randomized controlled trial with immediate follow-up.

Objectives: To evaluate the immediate effects of a low-amplitude, high-velocity thrust thoracic spine manipulation (TSM) on pain and scapular kinematics during elevation and lowering of the arm in individuals with shoulder impingement syndrome (SIS). The secondary objective was to evaluate the immediate effects of TSM on scapular kinematics during elevation and lowering of the arm in individuals without symptoms.

Background: Considering the regional interdependence among the shoulder and the thoracic and cervical spines, TSM may improve pain and function in individuals with SIS. Comparing individuals with SIS to those without shoulder pathology may provide information on the effects of TSM specifically in those with SIS.

Methods: Fifty subjects (mean ± SD age, 31.8 ± 10.9 years) with SIS and 47 subjects (age, 25.8 ± 5.0 years) asymptomatic for shoulder dysfunction were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 interventions: TSM or a sham intervention. Scapular kinematics were analyzed during elevation and lowering of the arm in the sagittal plane, and a numeric pain rating scale was used to assess shoulder pain during arm movement at preintervention and postintervention.

Results: For those in the SIS group, shoulder pain was reduced immediately after TSM and the sham intervention (mean ± SD preintervention, 2.9 ± 2.5; postintervention, 2.3 ± 2.5; P<.01; moderate effect size [Cohen d = 0.2]). Scapular internal rotation increased 0.5° ± 0.02° (P = .04; small effect size [Cohen d<0.1]) during elevation of the arm after TSM and sham intervention in the SIS group only. Subjects with and without SIS who received TSM and asymptomatic subjects who received the sham intervention had a significant increase (1.6° ± 2.7°) in scapular upward rotation postintervention (P<.05; small effect size [Cohen d<0.2]), which was not considered clinically significant. Scapular anterior tilt increased 1.0° ± 4.8° during elevation and lowering of the arm postmanipulation (P<.05; small effect size [Cohen d<0.2]) in the asymptomatic subjects who received TSM.

Conclusion: Shoulder pain in individuals with SIS immediately decreased after a TSM. The observed changes in scapular kinematics following TSM were not considered clinically important.

Level of evidence: Therapy, level 4. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2014;44(7):475-487. Epub 22 May 2014. doi:10.2519/jospt.2014.4760.

Keywords: manipulation; manual therapy; rehabilitation; spine.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arm / physiopathology
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Manipulation, Spinal*
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Scapula / physiology*
  • Scapula / physiopathology*
  • Shoulder / physiology
  • Shoulder / physiopathology
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / therapy*
  • Shoulder Pain / physiopathology*
  • Shoulder Pain / therapy*
  • Young Adult