New study to assess rehabilitation programmes after shoulder surgery

Keele researchers have been awarded a grant for £249,998 from the National Institute for Health Research to explore rehabilitation programmes for patients who have undergone shoulder surgery.  

Shoulder pain is common with one in four people suffering at any one time, with more and more patients undergoing surgery to repair the muscles and tendons of the shoulder. 

While surgical techniques have progressed over time, little is known about the best approach to rehabilitation post-surgery, and when is best to begin the rehabilitation programme.  

At present, most patients are advised to rest their arm in a sling for a month to six weeks after their operation. There is evidence suggesting that starting rehabilitation as soon as possible, could help patients to return to their usual activities more quickly and improve the overall quality of life.

Working alongside Derby Hospitals Foundation Trust, Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, and Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospitals, patients will take part in a 27-month pilot study, where they will receive one of two rehabilitation programmes.

Dr Chris Littlewood, lead researcher in association with Professor Nadine Foster, hopes that this pilot study will pave the way to a larger trial to assess the optimal approach to rehabilitation following shoulder surgery, and ensure that patients receive the best care.

Dr Littlewood commented: “Surgical techniques for shoulder pain have progressed over the years, with techniques becoming less invasive and the repairs becoming more secure, raising the possibility of more rapid patient recovery.”

“Despite these progressions in shoulder surgery, our understanding of the optimal approach to rehabilitation following surgery has not progressed, and a generally cautious approach is apparent.”

“Rehabilitation is key to good clinical outcomes, and this research is the first step towards developing a better understanding of effective post-surgical rehabilitation.”