Background: Posterior shoulder stretching exercises (PSSEs) aim to reduce posterior shoulder tightness (PST). Position modification of traditional PSSEs has been suggested to minimize inadequate control of scapular and glenohumeral rotation, possibly leading to increased subacromial impingement.
Hypothesis: Modified PSSEs will have positive effects on shoulder mobility, pain, and dysfunction.
Study design: Randomized controlled trial.
Level of evidence: Level 1.
Methods: A total of 67 symptomatic patients with subacromial impingement syndrome (SIS) and shoulder internal rotation asymmetry were randomly assigned to 3 groups: modified cross-body stretch (MCS) (n = 22; treatment program + MCS), modified sleeper stretch (MSS) (n = 22; treatment program + MSS), and a control group (n = 23; treatment program consisting of only modalities, range of motion [ROM], and strength training but no PSSEs) for 4 weeks. Pain, PST, shoulder rotation ROM, and dysfunction were evaluated.
Results: Pain, PST, shoulder rotation ROM, function, and disability improved in all groups (P < 0.05). The MCS and MSS groups had better results compared with the control group with regard to pain with activity, internal rotation ROM, function, and disability (P < 0.05). There was no significant difference between the stretching groups (P > 0.05).
Conclusion: All treatments improved pain, shoulder mobility, function, and disability in patients with SIS. However, modified PSSEs in addition to a treatment program was superior to the treatment program alone (without PSSEs) in improving pain with activity, internal rotation ROM, and dysfunction. Moreover, stretching provided clinically significant improvements.
Clinical relevance: Modified PSSEs, in addition to a treatment program, are beneficial for patients with SIS. Both modified cross-body and sleeper stretches are safe and efficacious for improving shoulder mobility, pain, and dysfunction.
Keywords: exercise; physical therapy; rehabilitation; shoulder; stretching.