Shoulder Pain Prevention Program for Manual Wheelchair Users With Paraplegia: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Top Spinal Cord Inj Rehabil. 2021 Fall;27(4):40-52. doi: 10.46292/sci20-00013. Epub 2021 Jun 30.


Objectives: To compare prevalence of shoulder pain (SP) onset over 3 years for individuals with paraplegia from spinal cord injury who participate in one of two shoulder pain prevention program (SPPP) formats with that of a similar population without intervention, and to compare exercise adherence between two SPPP formats. Methods: The randomized clinical trial (compared to historical controls) included a volunteer sample of 100 individuals without SP at study entry. Eighty-seven participants returned for assessments at 18 and 36 months after study entry. Control group included 220 volunteers from a 3-year observational study with identical inclusion criteria. SPPPs included shoulder home exercises and recommendations to improve mobility techniques that are effective in reducing existing SP in this population. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either one instruction session and a refresher session 4 weeks later with a physical therapist or a 4-week series of 2-hour group classes taught by a physical therapist and peer mentor. Prevalence of SP onset at 18 and 36 months and self-reported average weekly exercise frequency were the main outcome measures. Results: SP onset was identical in the two SPPPs but was significantly lower at 18 and 36 months in both groups (11% and 24%) compared to controls (27% and 40%, p < .05). Self-reported average weekly exercise frequency was similar between intervention groups but was significantly lower during the first 4 months in participants who developed SP compared to those without pain (2.12 ± 1.0 vs. 3.01 ± 1.13, p < .05). Conclusion: SPPPs reduced SP onset prevalence regardless of instruction format. Exercise adherence was important to the outcome of shoulder pain.

Keywords: exercise therapy; paraplegia; shoulder pain; spinal cord injury; subacromial impingement.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Exercise Therapy
  • Humans
  • Paraplegia
  • Shoulder Pain / etiology
  • Shoulder Pain / prevention & control
  • Spinal Cord Injuries* / complications
  • Wheelchairs*