Effects of a 16-week hydrotherapy program on three-dimensional scapular motion and pain of women with fibromyalgia: A single-arm study

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Although hydrotherapy is widely used to treat women with fibromyalgia, no studies have investigated the effects of this intervention on scapular kinematics in this population. This study verified the effectiveness of a hydrotherapy program on scapular kinematics, pain and quality of life in women with fibromyalgia.


Twenty women completed the study and performed three evaluations before treatment (to establish a baseline), and two other evaluations (after 8 and 16 weeks of hydrotherapy) at the end of treatment. Three-dimensional kinematics of the scapula was evaluated during arm elevation in two different planes with the Flock of Birds® system. Patients also answered quality of life and Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaires and had pain assessed with a digital algometer. Treatment consisted of 2 weekly hydrotherapy sessions, lasting 45 min each, for 16 weeks. Data were analyzed with a two-way ANOVA (for kinematics results) and one-way ANOVA (for the other variables). Effect size was assessed with Cohen's d coefficient for all quantitative variables.


Although an important improvement was achieved in terms of pain and quality of life (P < 0.05, effect sizes varied from − 1.93 to 1.61 depending on the variable), scapular kinematics did not change after treatment (P > 0.05, effect sizes from − 0.40 to 0.46 for all kinematic variables).


The proposed program of hydrotherapy was effective to improve quality of life, pain intensity and fibromyalgia impact in women with fibromyalgia. However, scapular kinematics did not change after the period of treatment. Although symptoms improved after the treatment, the lack of changes in scapular kinematics may indicate these women have an adaptive movement pattern due to their chronic painful condition.

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