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Shockwave Treatment May Not Be Best for Shoulder Pain

Comparison study finds supervised exercise has better results

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Supervised exercise is better than shockwave treatment for relieving chronic shoulder pain, according to a new study.

Shockwave treatment is widely used to treat shoulder pain, even though a number of studies have suggested that it's not effective. To investigate, Norwegian researchers studied 104 men and women, aged 18 to 70, who'd had shoulder pain for at least three months.

The study patients were randomly selected to receive either radial extracorporeal shockwave treatment (low to medium energy pulses delivered into the tissue) once a week for four to six weeks, or supervised exercise consisting of two 45-minute sessions a week for up to 12 weeks.

All of the patients were told not to use any additional treatments except analgesics, including anti-inflammatory drugs. The participants were assessed at six, 12 and 18 weeks, and their pain and disability were measured using a recognized scoring index.

After a period of 18 weeks, 64 percent of those in the exercise group and 36 percent of those in the shockwave therapy group had reduced pain and disability scores. More patients in the exercise group were able to return to work, while more patients in the shockwave group required additional treatment after 12 weeks.

"Supervised exercises were more effective than radial extracorporeal shockwave treatment for short-term improvement in patients with subacromial shoulder pain," the Oslo-based researchers reported.

The findings, published online Sept. 16 in BMJ, support results from previous trials that recommended exercise therapy, the study authors said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about shoulder pain.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: BMJ, news release, Sept. 15, 2009

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