Is soft tissue massage an effective treatment for mechanical shoulder pain? A study protocol

Paul van den Dolder, Paulo Ferreira, and Kathryn Refshauge
J Man Manip Ther. 2010 Mar; 18(1): 50–54.


Shoulder pain is a commonly occurring and potentially debilitating condition that affects many people. This planned study will use a single-blinded randomized controlled design to investigate whether the addition of soft tissue massage to exercise therapy in the treatment of shoulder pain has greater effects on pain, disability, and function over exercise therapy alone. The benefits of soft tissue massage as a commonly used treatment technique in the treatment of shoulder pain are not well established and this study will assist therapists to decide whether massage should be added to exercise regimens.

The study design of having two active treatment groups will ensure that any effects of the personality of each therapist and the treatment environment are equally distributed between participants. A number of treating therapists will be included to increase the external validity of the results. As there is no ‘gold standard’ therapeutic exercise regimen for the treatment of shoulder pain, we chose to employ a pragmatic design that allows the therapists to choose from a range of shoulder exercises based on their own clinical reasoning and experience. The soft tissue massage employed in this study has been shown to have an immediate effect on patient pain, range of motion, and disability, but has not been compared to an active treatment or subjected to longer term follow-up.

To peruse the entirety of this study, please go to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) website: Is soft tissue massage an effective treatment for mechanical shoulder pain? A study protocol

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