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How can we predict which patients with shoulder pain will successfully recover?

Researchers

  • Mike Smith

What are the aims of this research?

Our main aim is to identify what factors we can use to predict successful recovery in patients with shoulder pain. We also want to design research, which will follow on from this work, to find out if we can actually use these factors to improve the management and rehabilitation of people with shoulder pain.

Why is this research important?

Shoulder pain affects around one in five people and is a substantial cause of disability for the individual. The most common types of shoulder pain can be managed using physiotherapy to improve pain and disability. However, the reported levels of successful rehabilitation vary considerably: from twenty to eighty per cent. In order to make the best use of limited clinical resources, and to ensure patients get the right treatment, there is a need for research to inform targeted patient management.
We need to find out what characteristics can be measured in a clinical setting to predict which people, with the most common types of shoulder pain, will benefit from physiotherapy. Previous research has not answered this question as most of the previous studies in this area have not focused on the most common types of shoulder pain. If we can develop a set of “clinical predictor rules” this will help managers and clinicians to identify the patients who are most likely to respond to rehabilitation.
We will invite patients with the most common types of shoulder pain, who have been referred by their doctor for rehabilitation, to participate in this project. Characteristics that have been linked to their shoulder pain and rehabilitation will be recorded at three time points: when they are first referred for rehabilitation, towards the end of their rehabilitation and three months after discharge from rehabilitation. We will look at the characteristics of the people who do improve to identify factors that predict successful recovery.

How will the findings benefit patients?

This project will provide the groundwork for a programme of research to improve the management and recovery of people with the most common types of shoulder pain. This will improve patient care by ensuring that patients are referred for the right treatment at the right time. The follow-on research will focus on factors that patients themselves can change, such as how they move their shoulder; this will improve patient education to improve and prevent the recurrence of their shoulder pain.