Purpose: Besides pain, myofascial dysfunctions may contribute to the presence of upper limb impairments such as impaired range of motion, decreased strength, lymphedema, and altered postures and kinematics. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the effect of myofascial therapy in addition to a standard physical therapy program for treatment of upper limb dysfunctions in breast cancer survivors.
Methods: Fifty women treated for a unilateral breast cancer with pain and myofascial dysfunctions at the upper limb region. The intervention group received 12 sessions of myofascial therapy consisting of release techniques on myofascial trigger points and adhesions in addition to a standard physical therapy program for 3 months. The control group received 12 sessions of a placebo intervention in addition to the same standard physical therapy program during the 3 months. Outcome parameters are active shoulder range of motion (inclinometer); arm lymphedema (perimeter); upper limb strength (handheld dynamometer); scapular statics and dynamics (acromion-table and pectoralis minor index, inclinometer); shoulder function (Disability of Shoulder, Arm and Hand questionnaire); and quality of life (Short Form 36). Measures were taken before and after the intervention at 6 and 12 months follow-up.
Results: No differences between groups were found for all outcome parameters over the course of 1 year. However, overall beneficial effects of the standard physical therapy program for active shoulder range of motion and shoulder function were found in both groups up to 1 year follow-up.
Conclusion: Myofascial therapy has no additional beneficial effect for improvement of upper limb function in breast cancer survivors.
Keywords: Breast neoplasms; Myofascial pain syndromes; Physical therapy modalities; Shoulder function.