The modern world has brought with it computers and various IT devices and this has put additional postural stress on our bodies.

Long term use of computers for example can cause erector spine dysfunction and increased upper trapezius activation which in turn can generate cervical and axillary disorders causing shoulder and cervical pain and decreased pain thresholds.

In addition, increased upper trapezius activation causes lower trapezius and serrates anterior dysfunction which also contribute to shoulder pain.

This study randomly placed 38 office workers with shoulder pain into one of two groups: An exercise group performing shoulder stabilization; or a manual therapy group. Both groups underwent training twice per week for 6 weeks. After the intervention, both groups showed significantly improved pressure pain thresholds in the splenius capitus, upper, middle and lower trapezius on both sides. The manual therapy group showed greater improvement than did the shoulder stabilization group.

Manual Therapy for Shoulder Pain

Manual therapy in this study consisted of:

  • soft-tissue mobilization of the upper trapezius, levator scapulae, suboccipital, sternocleidomastoid, pectoral, cervical deep  flexors, serratus anterior, rhomboid, middle and upper trapezius muscles.
  • Prone thoracic mobilization, prone selected thoracic mobilization, cervical mobilization, and thoracic manipulation were also applied.

Manual therapy can lengthen connective tissues and activate neural structures which can improve range of motion and decrease pain.

Although the results of this study slightly favoured manual therapy over exercise, we are not advocating for one over the other. In patients with mechanical neck pain, current evidence suggests that a combination of exercise and manual therapy provides quicker reductions in pain.

RELATED READING: 24 Exercises to Reduce Back Pain

Go SU, Lee BH. Effects of manual therapy on shoulder pain in office workers. J. Phys. Ther. Sci. 28:2422-2425, 2016

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