Shoulder Pain After Stroke: A Prospective Population-Based Study

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Abstract

Background and Purpose—

Shoulder pain is a well-known complication after stroke, but data on prevalence, predictors, and outcome in unselected stroke populations are limited.

Methods—

During a 1-year period, 416 first-ever stroke patients were included in the population-based Lund Stroke Register. After 4 months, 327 patients were followed up and 1 year later, the surviving 305 patients were followed up again. General status (National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale score) was registered at stroke onset. Shoulder pain intensity (visual analog scale, score 0 to 30=no–mild and 40 to 100=moderate–severe pain); arm motor function; restricted dressing and/or ambulating; and functional status (Barthel Index) were registered at both follow ups.

Results—

Shoulder pain onset within 4 months after stroke was reported by 71 patients (22%). Among the 61 patients able to score the visual analog scale, 79% had moderate–severe pain. One year later, 8 of these 71 patients had died, 17 had no remaining pain, and 28 additional patients had developed shoulder pain since the first follow up. Lost or impaired arm motor function and high National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale score were predictors of shoulder pain. Shoulder pain restricted daily life often or constantly when dressing for 51%/31% and when ambulating for 29%/13% of the patients at 4 and 16 months, respectively.

Conclusion—

Almost one third of the 327 patients developed shoulder pain after stroke onset, a majority with moderate– severe pain. Shoulder pain restricts patients’ daily life after stroke. The increased risk of shoulder pain for patients with impaired arm motor function and/or low general status needs close attention in poststroke care.

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