Efficacy of high-intensity home mechanical stretch therapy for treatment of shoulder stiffness: a retrospective review

J Orthop Surg Res. 2022 Sep 29;17(1):434. doi: 10.1186/s13018-022-03325-9.


Background: Shoulder stiffness resulting in motion loss can be caused by numerous conditions, the most common of which is adhesive capsulitis. Surgical intervention is often necessary when conservative methods fail. High-intensity stretch (HIS) treatment may be able to provide increased motion gains while avoiding the cost and complications of surgery.

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to review data from patients who were prescribed a HIS device to recover their shoulder motion to determine the efficacy of the device. The hypotheses were that patients would achieve significant range of motion (ROM) gains and that ROM would increase to a level at which patients would be able to avoid a motion loss surgery and perform activities of daily living.

Methods: Clinical notes were reviewed for patients whose progress plateaued after 4 weeks of therapy and were subsequently prescribed the HIS device after failing to meet their treatment goals. ROM data were recorded for external rotation, abduction, forward flexion, and internal rotation. Pre- and post-treatment ROM data were compared using t-tests.

Results: Significant ROM gains were seen in all planes of motion (p < 0.001). Patients gained an average of 29.9° in external rotation with a last recorded rotation of 59.2°. In abduction, patients gained 40.5° with a last recorded abduction of 123.3°. In forward flexion, patients gained 30.3° with a last recorded flexion of 138.7°. In internal rotation, patients gained 15.2° with a last recorded rotation of 57.6°. These last recorded ranges of motion were sufficient to perform nearly all activities of daily living.

Conclusions: The HIS device was effective in treating patients with shoulder motion loss as demonstrated by the significant ROM gains in all planes of motion. The ability for a patient to recover lost motion quickly without surgery is of great value to quality of life and in healthcare cost savings. We believe this high-intensity stretch device should be considered for use by patients who are at risk for a motion loss surgery.

Keywords: Adhesive capsulitis; Mechanical therapy; Motion loss; Non-operative treatment; Shoulder; Stiffness.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Shoulder Joint* / surgery
  • Shoulder*
  • Treatment Outcome