Physiotherapist-led suprascapular nerve blocks for persistent shoulder pain: Evaluation of a new service in the UK

Musculoskeletal Care. 2018 Mar;16(1):214-221. doi: 10.1002/msc.1205. Epub 2017 Jul 13.


Introduction: This service evaluation explored and reported findings from a new physiotherapist-led service offering suprascapular nerve blocks (SSNBs) to patients with persistent shoulder pain.

Methods: We collected data before the SSNB injection and at the 6-weeks and 6-month follow-up from consecutive patients with persistent shoulder pain being treated by physiotherapists or an anaesthetist. Outcomes were patient-reported pain (numerical rating scale [NRS 0 to 10]), patient-specific functional score (PSFS) and health-related quality of life [the EuroQol five dimensions questionnaire (EQ5D-5 L)]. Exploratory analyses compared baseline and follow-up scores within each clinician delivery group (physiotherapists, anaesthetist).

Results: Forty patients (mean age 57 years [standard deviation {SD} 12]; 63% female) received an SSNB from a physiotherapist, eight patients (mean age 59 years [SD 11]; female 88%) received an SSNB from an anaesthetist. At the 6-week follow-up, the physiotherapy group showed a mean reduction in pain (on the NRS): 2.2 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.3 to 3.0) and an improvement in function (on the PSFS): -1.3 (95% CI -1.9 to -0.4). Similar changes were found in those treated by the anaesthetist (pain: 1.3 [95% CI -1.18 to 3.80]; function: -1.4 (95% CI -3.18 to 0.35]). Very small changes, that were not statistically significant, were found in EQ5D-5 L scores. At the 6-month follow-up, the mean reduction in pain (NRS) was maintained at 2.0 (95% CI 0.99 to 2.95) for the physiotherapy group.

Conclusion: The results provide early, exploratory evidence that patients with persistent shoulder pain treated by physiotherapists using palpation-guided SSNBs achieve clinically important changes in pain and function in the short and medium term.

Keywords: physiotherapy; shoulder pain; suprascapular nerve block.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Block / methods*
  • Physical Therapists*
  • Shoulder Pain / drug therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome