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Shoulder News

The Heat Is on Ultrasound for Shoulder Problems

Slowly but surely researchers are finding out what works and what doesn't for soft tissue problems in the shoulder. So far studies show little benefit from taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or from steroid injections into the joint.

In this study the effect of ultrasound is measured. Ultrasound is a form of deep heat. It is thought to improve blood flow to healing tissue and to reduce pain. The result is increased motion and improved function.

Forty patients with a soft tissue disorder of the shoulder were divided into two groups. One group of 20 patients had ultrasound to the shoulder. The other group had "sham" ultrasound, meaning the ultrasound machine was used but not turned on. Both groups also had other physical therapy treatment.

Everyone was treated five days each week for three weeks, for a total of 15 sessions. Measures used to assess the differences in treatment results included pain at rest, pain with motion, range of motion, and function.

The authors reported changes within each group. There were no big differences between groups. The ultrasound didn't add anything more to the results from physical therapy without ultrasound. They conclude that ultrasound isn't needed or helpful in treating soft tissue disorders of the shoulder.

Yesim Kurtais Gürsel, et al. Adding Ultrasound in the Management of Soft Tissue Disorders of the Shoulder: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. In Physical Therapy April 2004. Vol. 84. No. 4. Pp. 336-343.

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