Shoulder impingement syndrome (SIS) is a complex, multi-factorial condition that is treated with a number of different conservative options. One conservative option that has exhibited effectiveness is manual therapy to the thoracic spine. Another option, manual therapy to the cervical spine, has been studied only once with good results, evaluating short-term outcomes, in a small sample size. The authors’ purpose in this study was to examine the benefit of neck manual therapy for patients with SIS. The study was a randomised, single blinded, clinical trial where both groups received pragmatic, evidence-based treatment to the shoulder and one group received neck manual therapy. Subjects with neck pain were excluded from the study. Comparative pain, disability, rate of recovery and patient acceptable symptom state (PASS) measures were analyzed on the 68 subjects seen over an average of 56.1 days (standard deviation (SD)=55.4). 86% of the sample reported an acceptable change on the PASS at discharge. There were no between-groups differences in those who did or did not receive neck manual therapy; although, both groups demonstrated significant within-groups improvements. On average both groups improved 59.7% (SD=25.1) for pain and 53.5% (SD=40.2) for the Quick Disabilities of the Shoulder and Hand Questionnaire (QuickDASH) from baseline.
This study found no value when neck manual therapy was used in addition to the treatment of SIS. The authors suggest that the reasons may include the lack of therapeutic dosage provided for the manual therapy approach or the lack of benefit to treating the neck in subjects with SIS who do not have concomitant neck problems.