Manipulation Best for Shoulder Girdle Problems

Objective: To compare the efficacy of physiotherapy, manipulation, and corticosteroid injection for treating patients with shoulder complaints in general practice.

Design: Randomised, single blind study.

Setting: Seven general practices in the Netherlands.

Subjects: 198 patients with shoulder complaints, of whom 172 were divided, on the basis of physical examination, into two diagnostic groups: a shoulder girdle group (n=58) and a synovial group (n=114).

Interventions: Patients in the shoulder girdle group were randomised to manipulation or physiotherapy, and patients in the synovial group were randomised to corticosteroid injection, manipulation, or physiotherapy.

Main outcome measures: Duration of shoulder complaints analysed by survival analysis.

Results: In the shoulder girdle group duration of complaints was significantly shorter after manipulation compared with physiotherapy (P<0.001). Also the number of patients reporting treatment failure was less with manipulation. In the synovial group duration of complaints was shortest after corticosteroid injection compared with manipulation and physiotherapy (P<0.001). Drop out due to treatment failure was low in the injection group (17%) and high in the manipulation group (59%) and physiotherapy group (51%).

Conclusions: For treating shoulder girdle disorders, manipulation seems to be the preferred treatment. For the synovial disorders, corticosteroid injection seems the best treatment.

Jan C Winters, Jan S Sobel, Klaas H Groenier, Hans J Arendzen, Betty Meyboom-de Jong. Comparison of physiotherapy, manipulation, and corticosteroid injection for treating shoulder complaints in general practice: randomised, single blind study. BMJ 1997;314:1320-1325.