Patients with chronic shoulder pain experience reduced symptoms and improved functioning following comprehensive physiotherapy and exercising to target myofascial trigger points, researchers have found.
In a randomised controlled trial, 72 patients with chronic shoulder pain were assigned to a treatment group receiving help once week or to a control group, where they received no treatment.
The intervention group received comprehensive treatment once weekly consisting of manual compression of the trigger points, manual stretching of the muscles and intermittent cold application with stretching. Patients were instructed to perform muscle-stretching and relaxation exercises at home and received ergonomic recommendations and advice to assume and maintain good posture.
The researchers assessed patients' pain levels using a questionnaire.
After 12 weeks, 55% of the patients in the intervention group reported improvement, ranging from slightly improved to completely recovered, compared with 14% in the control group.
The mean number of muscles with active trigger points decreased by 2.7 in the intervention group compared with the control group.
Lead researcher Dr Carel Bron, from the Radboud University Medical Centre in Holland, said: ‘The results show that 12-week comprehensive treatment reduces the number of muscles with actives myofascial trigger points.'
BMC Medicine 2011, 9:8Clinical skills videos