Physical Therapy Equal to Surgery for Shoulder Pain

June 27, 2013 in STSMPT

Shoulder Pain

Whether you know it as bursitis, shoulder tendonitis, rotator cuff injury, or thrower’s shoulder, subacromial impingement is the most common diagnosis for shoulder pain. People of any occupation (especially one that involves repetitive overhead lifting), any age, or at any fitness level can be affected with subacromial impingement. Treatment can include surgery, corticosteroid injections, and physical therapy.  If you have been diagnosed with subacromial impingement and prefer a less invasive, cost-effective alternative to surgery, it may interest you to know that physical therapy can be as effective as surgery in treating subacromial impingement.

In a randomized, controlled trial, researchers compared physical therapy alone with arthroscopic decompression surgery + physical therapy. Patients 18 to 55 years old, who had suffered from symptoms between six and 36 months, were randomized into two treatment groups. The surgery group received arthroscopic subacromial decompression followed by physical therapy training in home exercises. The exercise group received 19, one-hour sessions of physical therapy consisting of heat or cold packs, soft tissue treatments, training of the muscles around the scapula, and strengthening of the shoulder stabilizing muscles. All exercises were conducted within the limits of pain. At 12 month follow-up, improvement in Constant scores (scores combining measurements of pain, limitations on activities of daily living, active range of motion, and isometric strength) were virtually equal to those of the patients who had received surgery.

We offer highly effective protocols to treat shoulder pain and subacromial impingement. Contact us for more information on how we can help you on your path to recovery.


Ostor A, Richards C, Prevost A, et al. Diagnosis and relation to general health of shoulder disorders presenting to primary care. Rheumatology (Oxford) 2005; 44: 800-5.


Haar J, Ostergaard S, Dalsgaard J, et al. Exercises versus arthroscopic decompression in patients with subacromial impingement: a randomised, controlled study in 90 cases with a one year follow up. Ann Rheum Dis 2005; 64: 760-764.

Print Friendly