Pain study going shoulder to shoulder

Jul 26 2018

Donald Hunter

To mark national Pain Week (July 23-29), researchers at the University of Newcastle are seeking participants for a new clinical study focused on shoulder pain.

Shoulder impingement syndrome (SIS) is the most common cause of shoulder pain, yet current treatment practices have generally been considered ineffective.

Research at the University of Newcastle found that posture and flexibility of the thoracic spine, or upper back, was related to having SIS, and might be a promising new focus for the treatment of shoulder pain.

PhD student and registered osteopath Donald Hunter explains, “We found people with SIS had a more “hunched” thoracic posture and less flexiblity in their spine when bending backwards.

“Hence the new clinical study plans to assess whether intervention to the thoracic spine can improve shoulder pain and disability in people with SIS.”

The randomised controlled trial (RCT) will compare three interventions in people aged between 40 and 80 who have shoulder pain, with a telephone screening protocol and clinical orthopaedic test to confirm an SIS diagnosis over other causes.

One group will receive laser to the thoracic spine and shoulder muscles, another group will receive mobilisation and muscle energy technique to the thoracic spine, and the third group will receive mobilisation and muscle energy technique to the thoracic spine with soft tissue massage around the shoulder.

A registered and experienced osteopath will perform all interventions.

Mr Hunter says it’s first RCT to use such techniques to address shoulder pain.

The study requires 75 people with shoulder pain, aged between 40 and 80, who can attend Beech Health Osteopathic clinic in New Lambton on four occasions. They will have their shoulder and back assessed and an intervention performed free of charge.

Study supervisors include Associate Professor Suzanne Snodgrass, Professor Darren Rivett and Dr Sharmaine McKiernan. For more information please contact Donald Hunter on 0423 283 992 or