Treatment of Arm, Neck, and/or Shoulder Complaints in Physical Therapy Practice

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Abstract

Study Design.

This is a prospective cohort study with a follow-up period of 6 months.

Objective.

To describe the interventions applied by physical therapists in treating patients with complaints of the arm, neck, and/or shoulder.

Summary of Background Data.

Complaints of the arm, neck, and/or shoulder occur frequently and are usually treated within primary care. Many patients with these complaints are treated with physical therapy.

Methods.

During a 1-year period, the participating physiotherapists included new consulters with musculoskeletal complaints of the upper extremity. The patients completed a questionnaire at baseline, and the physical therapists completed a treatment record for up to 6 months.

Results.

Of the 624 patients included in the cohort, physical therapists provided treatment data of 619 patients. The main treatment consisted of exercise therapy (93%) and massage (87%), or a combination of both. More patients with specific complaints received physical methods, and patients with nonspecific complaints were treated with manipulation techniques.

Conclusions.

The primary treatment of complaints the of arm, neck, and/or shoulder in physiotherapy practice consists of exercise therapy and massage therapy, mostly being a combination of both. Future studies should focus on the effectiveness of exercise therapies, combined or not combined with massage, for patients with complaints of the arm, neck, and/or shoulder.

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