Public Release:  Physiotherapy after surgery -- the best solution for shoulder problems

University of Gothenburg

Most patients who receive physiotherapy after surgery experience that pain is reduced by a half within a few months. Most of them are free of pain after one to two years. This is the conclusion of a thesis presented at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

"Age-related changes in tissue combined with acute trauma can contribute to shoulder problems. The most common cause of such problems, however, is compression of the tendons in the shoulder due to a reduction in the space available", says Ingrid Hultenheim Klintberg, physiotherapist and researcher at the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology.

Patients with these symptoms should initially be treated by physiotherapy. Those for whom physiotherapy does not have an adequate effect are offered surgical treatment, in which the space available is enlarged and the tendons repaired, if necessary. The two most common procedures are known as arthroscopic subacromial decompression and rotator cuff repair.

The aim is that the patient should become free of pain, regain muscular strength, regain mobility, and be able to resume work and leisure activities. Patients who undergo either of these two procedures are offered physiotherapy, following a tailored programme of treatment.

"The results presented in the thesis show that most patients state that pain and discomfort are reduced by 50%, 3-6 months after the surgery. They had achieved full mobility and muscle strength compared with reference values at the two-year follow up after the surgery", says Ingrid Hultenheim Klintberg.

Follow up 8-11 years after the surgery showed that many of the patients had retained good shoulder function, mobility and strength.

"Their quality of life was good and they display the same pattern of physical activity as do Swedish people in general", states Ingrid Hultenheim Klintberg.

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SHOULDER PROBLEMS

Just over 1½ million people in Sweden experience shoulder and neck pain, or problems with shoulder function, often leading to time off work. It has been estimated that approximately 8,000 operations are carried out each year for this type of shoulder problem. Women are affected somewhat more than men, and the risk of being affected rises with age. Heavy loads from work or from sport involving heavy and repeated operations with the hands above shoulder height are also risk factors for developing shoulder problems.

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