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The effectiveness of an upper extremity neuromuscular training program on the shoulder function of military members with a rotator cuff tendinopathy: a pilot randomized controlled trial
Ager AL, Roy JS, Gamache F, Hebert LJ
Military Medicine 2019 May;184(5-6):e385-e393
clinical trial
8/10 [Eligibility criteria: Yes; Random allocation: Yes; Concealed allocation: Yes; Baseline comparability: Yes; Blind subjects: No; Blind therapists: No; Blind assessors: Yes; Adequate follow-up: Yes; Intention-to-treat analysis: Yes; Between-group comparisons: Yes; Point estimates and variability: Yes. Note: Eligibility criteria item does not contribute to total score] *This score has been confirmed*

INTRODUCTION: Shoulder pain, a leading reason to consult a physician or physiotherapist, continues to be a challenge to rehabilitate, particularly with a military population. A rotator cuff (RC) tendinopathy, the most important source of shoulder pain, is one of the leading reasons for sick leave or a discharge from active military service. Research encourages the use of exercise prescription for the management of a RC tendinopathy, however the ideal method of delivery (group setting versus one-on-one) remains uncertain. The purpose of this single-blind (evaluator) pilot randomized clinical trial was to compare two 6-week rehabilitation programs, a newly developed group-supervised neuromuscular training program and usual one-on-one physiotherapy care, on the pain and symptoms of Canadian soldiers affected by a RC tendinopathy. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Thirty-one soldiers with the Canadian Armed Forces were randomly assigned to (1) a group-supervised neuromuscular training program (UPEx-NTP) or; (2) one-on-one usual physiotherapy care (UPC). The primary outcome was the Disability of Arm, Hand and Shoulder (DASH) questionnaire. Secondary outcomes included the Western Ontario Rotator Cuff (WORC) Index, pain levels at rest, and maximum isometric voluntary contractions (MIVC) of the abductors and external (lateral) rotators of the affected shoulder. Both were assessed at baseline (T0), 6 (T6) and 12 (T12) weeks. Analysis included two-way repeated measures of variance for intention-to-treat (ITT) and per-protocol analyses. RESULTS: Eighty military members with a RC tendinopathy were contacted, resulting in 31 participants who were randomized for their active intervention, in the UPEx-NTP or UPC, respectively. No significant group (p >= 0.16) or group x time interactions (p >= 0.11) were found for either ITT or per-protocol analyses. A statistically significant time effect (p < 0.001) was established for the DASH and WORC, showing that both groups improved over time. CONCLUSIONS: Our preliminary data demonstrates that both rehabilitation approaches, grounded in active exercises, were not statistically different from each other, and derived similar benefits over time for a military population. This suggests that a group intervention for a RC tendinopathy has potential to be just as effective as a one-on-one approach for a military population, an interesting avenue for an active working population. Larger sample sizes and further investigation are warranted regarding the cost and clinical resource benefits of a supervised group approach.

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