Effectiveness of Occupational Therapy Interventions for Musculoskeletal Shoulder Conditions: A Systematic Review

Am J Occup Ther. Jan/Feb 2017;71(1):7101180020p1-7101180020p11. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2017.023127.


People with musculoskeletal disorders of the shoulder commonly experience pain, decreased strength, and restricted range of motion (ROM) that limit participation in meaningful occupational activities. The purpose of this systematic review was to evaluate the current evidence for interventions within the occupational therapy scope of practice that address pain reduction and increase participation in functional activities. Seventy-six studies were reviewed for this study-67 of Level I evidence, 7 of Level II evidence, and 2 of Level III evidence. Strong evidence was found that ROM, strengthening exercises, and joint mobilizations can improve function and decrease pain. The evidence to support physical modalities is moderate to mixed, depending on the shoulder disorder. Occupational therapy practitioners can use this evidence to guide daily clinical decision making.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Bursitis / rehabilitation*
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Humans
  • Humeral Fractures / rehabilitation*
  • Muscle Stretching Exercises
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / rehabilitation
  • Neck Pain / rehabilitation
  • Occupational Therapy / methods*
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome / rehabilitation*
  • Shoulder Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Treatment Outcome