Effectiveness of Standardized Physical Therapy Exercises for Patients With Difficulty Returning to Usual Activities After Decompression Surgery for Subacromial Impingement Syndrome: Randomized Controlled Trial

Phys Ther. 2016 Jun;96(6):787-96. doi: 10.2522/ptj.20150652. Epub 2016 Feb 25.


Background: Little is known about the effectiveness of exercise programs after decompression surgery for subacromial impingement syndrome. For patients with difficulty returning to usual activities, special efforts may be needed to improve shoulder function.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness at 3 and 12 months of a standardized physical therapy exercise intervention compared with usual care in patients with difficulty returning to usual activities after subacromial decompression surgery.

Design: A multicenter randomized controlled trial was conducted.

Setting: The study was conducted in 6 public departments of orthopedic surgery, 2 departments of occupational medicine, and 2 physical therapy training centers in Central Denmark Region.

Patients: One hundred twenty-six patients reporting difficulty returning to usual activities at the postoperative clinical follow-up 8 to 12 weeks after subacromial decompression surgery participated.

Intervention: A standardized exercise program consisting of physical therapist-supervised individual training sessions and home training was used.

Outcome measures: The primary outcome measure was the Oxford Shoulder Score. Secondary outcome measures were the Constant Score and the Fear-Avoidance Beliefs Questionnaire.

Results: At 3 and 12 months, follow-up data were obtained for 92% and 83% of the patients, respectively. Intention-to-treat analyses suggested a between-group difference on the Oxford Shoulder Score favoring the exercise group at 3 months, with an adjusted mean difference of 2.0 (95% confidence interval=-0.5, 4.6), and at 12 months, with an adjusted mean difference of 5.8 (95% confidence interval=2.8, 8.9). Significantly larger improvements for the exercise group were observed for most secondary and supplementary outcome measures.

Limitations: The nature of the exercise intervention did not allow blinding of patients and care providers.

Conclusion: The standardized physical therapy exercise intervention resulted in statistically significant and clinically relevant improvement in shoulder pain and function at 12 months compared with usual care.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Decompression, Surgical / rehabilitation*
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recovery of Function*
  • Shoulder / physiopathology*
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / complications
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / rehabilitation*
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / surgery
  • Shoulder Joint / physiopathology*
  • Shoulder Pain / etiology
  • Shoulder Pain / rehabilitation
  • Shoulder Pain / surgery