Interventions for post-stroke shoulder pain: An overview of systematic reviews

Suzanne Dyer, Dylan A. Mordaunt, Zoe Adey-Wakeling

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
31 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Shoulder pain following stroke leads to poorer quality of life and daily functioning. Whilst many treatment approaches exist, there is currently no systematic overview of the evidence base for these. This review addressed the question “What is the evidence for interventions for treating hemiplegic shoulder pain?” Methods: An overview of systematic reviews was performed according to PROSPERO protocol (CRD42020140521). Five electronic databases including Cochrane, MEDLINE, Embase and EmCare were searched to June 2019. Included systematic reviews were those of comparative trials of interventions for hemiplegic shoulder pain in adults, reporting pain outcomes using a validated pain scale. Review quality was assessed with AMSTAR2 and those considered at high risk of bias for four or more items were excluded. The most recent, comprehensive review for each intervention category was included. Outcomes of function and quality of life were also extracted. Results: Seven systematic reviews of 11 interventions were included, with varied quality. Reviews showed significant benefits in terms of pain reduction for many interventions including acupuncture (conventional 19 trials, electroacupuncture 5 trials, fire needle 2 trials, warm needle 1 trial and bee venom 3 trials), orthoses (1 trial), botulinum toxin injection (4 trials), electrical stimulation (6 trials) and aromatherapy (1 trial). However, the majority of trials were small, leading to imprecise estimates of effect. Findings were often inconsistent across outcome measures or follow-up times. Outcomes from trials of acupuncture were heterogenous with likely publication bias. Conclusion: A number of systematic reviews indicate significant reductions in pain, with a wide range of treatments appearing promising. However, significant limitations mean the clinical importance of these findings are uncertain. Due to complex etiology, practitioners and health systems must consider the range of potential interventions and tailor their approach to individual presentation, guided by their local circumstances, expert opinion and the growing literature base.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1411-1426
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of General Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2020


  • Hemiplegia
  • Older adults
  • Shoulder pain
  • Stroke
  • Systematic review


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