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Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Shoulder Pain Research at Keele: The Past, Present and Future

Written by Dr Chris Littlewood | @PCSciences |

Network with like-minded clinicians and researchers and understand what Keele University have done, are doing and will be doing to improve health care for patients suffering with shoulder pain at our afternoon seminar on Monday 15th May 2017. Dr Chris Littlewood, Physiotherapist and Senior Clinical Lecturer in Clinical Trials summarises below, why shoulder pain is at the forefront of our research. 

How common is shoulder pain? 

Shoulder pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal pain problems with up to one in four people suffering at any one time. Shoulder pain can have a significant impact on quality of life including an effect on work, hobbies and sleep. It has been suggested that four out of every ten people who suffer with shoulder pain will continue to experience problems one year later. And, for those people who do recover, a recurrent episode of shoulder pain is likely. So, musculoskeletal shoulder pain is clearly not a short-lasting condition.

What do we already know? 

Even though shoulder pain is a common and burdensome problem, it is surprising how little is known about the causes and most effective treatments. Some of this uncertainty is due to limitations of the tests and scans we use to try to diagnose shoulder pain problems. One example of this is that ‘problems’, e.g. a tear of one of the muscles and tendons of the shoulder, can be seen on a scan but we also see similar ‘problems’ in people without shoulder pain. Furthermore, patients can report that their shoulder pain is improving but the findings on the scan do not change. These findings serve to question our current use of scans and tests and how we formulate diagnoses for people with shoulder pain.

How do we currently treat it? 

In terms of treatments, there are a range of different options that might be offered to a patient complaining of shoulder pain. These options include advice, pain medication, injections, physiotherapy, including exercise, acupuncture, and surgery to name but a few. However, it is unclear which treatments should be offered to which patients to get the best effect. Also, it is apparent that many of our current treatments only have small effects in the short-term. Even though surgery is seen as the definitive treatment by some, the research evidence to date suggests it is no more effective than exercise for some types of shoulder pain.

Why research it?

There is clear scope to challenge how we think about shoulder pain and what constitutes effective diagnostic and treatment pathways. This seminar will explore some of these challenges by reflecting on research that has been undertaken by researchers at Keele University over recent years as well as research that is currently on-going and also research that is planned for the future to help reduce the burden of shoulder pain for our patients.

Sign up to the event 

Full details of the event can be found on our website. The event will take place on Monday 15th May at 2.00-5.00pm at Keele Hall, Keele University. Please ensure that you book your place for this event, as spaces are limited.  

About the author: 

Chris is a Physiotherapist and Senior Clinical Lecturer in Clinical Trials at the Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences. He has extensive experience in relation to musculoskeletal disorders and has a special interest in the ‘rotator cuff’ borne out of clinical observation in tandem with the assumed complexity and mystique that surrounds these disorders.

In addition to his clinical training, Chris completed an MSc in Health Services Research and Technology, and was later awarded a UK Department of Health Fellowship to undertake his PhD which related to the assessment and management of the rotator cuff.

Chris has published a number of peer-reviewed papers with a focus on the ‘rotator cuff’ and regularly presents at both national and international conferences. 

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