Soft tissue massage and exercise are frequently used to treat episodes of shoulder pain. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of soft tissue massage and exercise compared to exercise alone on pain, disability, and range of motion in patients with non-specific shoulder pain. Participants were randomly assigned to either a group that received soft tissue massage around the shoulder and exercises (n = 40) or an exercise only group (n = 40) over four weeks. The primary outcome was improvement in pain measured on a 100 mm visual analogue scale one week after cessation of treatment. Secondary outcomes were disability, active flexion, abduction and hand-behind-back range of motion. Measures were taken at baseline, one week after cessation of treatment and 12 weeks after cessation of treatment. The between groups difference in pain scores from the initial measures to 12 weeks after cessation of treatment showed a small significant difference in favor of the exercise only group (mean difference 14.7 mm, p=0.042). There were no significant differences between groups for any other variable.
The study found that addition of soft tissue massage to an exercise program for the shoulder produces no additional benefit in pain, disability or range of motion or disability in patients with non-specific shoulder pain.