BACKGROUND: Adhesive capsulitis (also termed frozen shoulder) is commonly treated by manual therapy and exercise, usually delivered together as components of a physical therapy intervention. This review is one of a series of reviews that form an update of the Cochrane review, 'Physiotherapy interventions for shoulder pain.'
OBJECTIVES: To synthesise available evidence regarding the benefits and harms of manual therapy and exercise, alone or in combination, for the treatment of patients with adhesive capsulitis.
SEARCH METHODS: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL Plus, ClinicalTrials.gov and the WHO ICTRP clinical trials registries up to May 2013, unrestricted by language, and reviewed the reference lists of review articles and retrieved trials, to identify potentially relevant trials.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-randomised trials, including adults with adhesive capsulitis, and comparing any manual therapy or exercise intervention versus placebo, no intervention, a different type of manual therapy or exercise or any other intervention. Interventions included mobilisation, manipulation and supervised or home exercise, delivered alone or in combination. Trials investigating the primary or adjunct effect of a combination of manual therapy and exercise were the main comparisons of interest. Main outcomes of interest were participant-reported pain relief of 30% or greater, overall pain (mean or mean change), function, global assessment of treatment success, active shoulder abduction, quality of life and the number of participants experiencing adverse events.
DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two review authors independently selected trials for inclusion, extracted the data, performed a risk of bias assessment and assessed the quality of the body of evidence for the main outcomes using the GRADE approach.
MAIN RESULTS: We included 32 trials (1836 participants). No trial compared a combination of manual therapy and exercise versus placebo or no intervention. Seven trials compared a combination of manual therapy and exercise versus other interventions but were clinically heterogeneous, so opportunities for meta-analysis were limited. The overall impression gained from these trials is that the few outcome differences between interventions that were clinically important were detected only up to seven weeks. Evidence of moderate quality shows that a combination of manual therapy and exercise for six weeks probably results in less improvement at seven weeks but a similar number of adverse events compared with glucocorticoid injection. The mean change in pain with glucocorticoid injection was 58 points on a 100-point scale, and 32 points with manual therapy and exercise (mean difference (MD) 26 points, 95% confidence interval (CI) 15 points to 37 points; one RCT, 107 participants), for an absolute difference of 26% (15% to 37%). Mean change in function with glucocorticoid injection was 39 points on a 100-point scale, and 14 points with manual therapy and exercise (MD 25 points, 95% CI 35 points to 15 points; one RCT, 107 participants), for an absolute difference of 25% (15% to 35%). Forty-six per cent (26/56) of participants reported treatment success with manual therapy and exercise compared with 77% (40/52) of participants receiving glucocorticoid injection (risk ratio (RR) 0.6, 95% CI 0.44 to 0.83; one RCT, 108 participants), with an absolute risk difference of 30% (13% to 48%). The number reporting adverse events did not differ between groups: 56% (32/57) reported events with manual therapy and exercise, and 53% (30/57) with glucocorticoid injection (RR 1.07, 95% CI 0.76 to 1.49; one RCT, 114 participants), with an absolute risk difference of 4% (-15% to 22%). Group differences in improvement in overall pain and function at six months and 12 months were not clinically important.We are uncertain of the effect of other combinations of manual therapy and exercise, as most evidence is of low quality. Meta-analysis of two trials (86 participants) suggested no clinically important differences between a combination of manual therapy, exercise, and electrotherapy for four weeks and placebo injection compared with glucocorticoid injection alone or placebo injection alone in terms of overall pain, function, active range of motion and quality of life at six weeks, six months and 12 months (though the 95% CI suggested function may be better with glucocorticoid injection at six weeks). The same two trials found that adding a combination of manual therapy, exercise and electrotherapy for four weeks to glucocorticoid injection did not confer clinically important benefits over glucocorticoid injection alone at each time point. Based on one high quality trial (148 participants), following arthrographic joint distension with glucocorticoid and saline, a combination of manual therapy and supervised exercise for six weeks conferred similar effects to those of sham ultrasound in terms of overall pain, function and quality of life at six weeks and at six months, but provided greater patient-reported treatment success and active shoulder abduction at six weeks. One trial (119 participants) found that a combination of manual therapy, exercise, electrotherapy and oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for three weeks did not confer clinically important benefits over oral NSAID alone in terms of function and patient-reported treatment success at three weeks.On the basis of 25 clinically heterogeneous trials, we are uncertain of the effect of manual therapy or exercise when not delivered together, or one type of manual therapy or exercise versus another, as most reported differences between groups were not clinically or statistically significant, and the evidence is mostly of low quality.
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: The best available data show that a combination of manual therapy and exercise may not be as effective as glucocorticoid injection in the short-term. It is unclear whether a combination of manual therapy, exercise and electrotherapy is an effective adjunct to glucocorticoid injection or oral NSAID. Following arthrographic joint distension with glucocorticoid and saline, manual therapy and exercise may confer effects similar to those of sham ultrasound in terms of overall pain, function and quality of life, but may provide greater patient-reported treatment success and active range of motion. High-quality RCTs are needed to establish the benefits and harms of manual therapy and exercise interventions that reflect actual practice, compared with placebo, no intervention and active interventions with evidence of benefit (e.g. glucocorticoid injection).
- Exercise Therapy
- Injections, Intra-Articular
- Middle Aged
- Musculoskeletal Manipulations
- Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
- Shoulder Pain