Physiotherapy pain trial going shoulder to shoulder

Sep 8 2015

As World Physiotherapy Day is celebrated today, researchers at the University of Newcastle are recruiting for a new trial investigating a condition called ‘shoulder impingement syndrome’ that is found among swimmers, throwing athletes and those who perform overhead work.

Shoulder pain prevalence increases consistently with age, making it the third most common musculoskeletal cause for people to visit their GPs (behind neck and back pain). Half will still have consistent pain and impediment at 12 months.

“As you get older the spine gets a little more rounded and stiffer, creating a narrowing of space under a shoulder bone called the acromion,” Associate Professor Suzanne Snodgrass, a physiotherapy researcher, said. “This causes discomfort and makes it harder for people to lift their arm over their head.

“Physiotherapists are experts in maintaining people’s ability to move and function, and they often look to treat the spine as well as the shoulder itself. Unfortunately we don’t have good evidence to show this is appropriate.”

The research team we will be doing spinal x-rays in people with shoulder pain and comparing them to healthy controls to see if the spinal posture does relate to this shoulder pain.

 Physiotherapy pain trial going shoulder to shoulder

Study participants must be aged between 40-80 and not have any conditions that would normally prohibit an active assessment of their shoulder or thoracic spine. They should have experienced at least one episode of shoulder pain per week over the past three months.

People with no shoulder pain for three months are also required as ‘control’ patients.

Posture assessment, ultrasound examinations and x-rays are being done at the University of Newcastle’s School of Health Sciences Research Laboratories in the Hunter Building.

For more information about the study please contact Donald Hunter on 4965 5125 or or project supervisor Associate Professor Suzanne Snodgrass on (02) 4921 2089 or

* Associate Professor Suzanne Snodgrass is from the University of Newcastle’s School of Health Sciences (Physiotherapy), researching in conjunction with HMRI. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.