“Restoring that Faith in my Shoulder”: A Qualitative Investigation of how and why Exercise Therapy Influenced the Clinical Outcomes of Individuals with Rotator Cuff-Related Shoulder Pain

Jared Powell*, Nathalia Costa, Ben Schram, Wayne A Hing, Jeremy Lewis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
130 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: Rotator cuff-related shoulder pain (RCRSP) is the most common form of shoulder pain. Exercise therapy is a first-line recommended treatment for RCRSP. However, the causal mechanisms underpinning the benefits of exercise for RCRSP are not well understood. Moreover, how individuals with lived experience of RCRSP believe exercise helped or did not help them is unknown. This study aimed to gain insights into how individuals with RCRSP believe exercise influenced their shoulder pain and identify the clinical conditions that promoted or inhibited their beliefs. METHODS: This qualitative study was underpinned by a critical realist approach to thematic analysis. Participants were recruited using hybrid purposive and convenience sampling techniques. Each participant attended an online semi-structured interview. The data were coded by 2 members of the research team (J.K.P. and N.C.) and verified by a third (B.S.). Recruitment continued until theoretical sufficiency was achieved. Participants reviewed and validated preliminary causal explanations. RESULTS: Three causal explanations were consistently expressed by 11 participants to explain the benefits of exercise therapy: (1) shoulder strength; (2) changes to psychoemotional status; and (3) exercise has widespread health effects. However, the activation of these causal mechanisms depended on (1) the presence of a strong therapeutic relationship; (2) the provision of a structured and tailored exercise program; and (3) experiencing timely clinical progress. CONCLUSION: Participants believed exercise improved their shoulder pain through associated health benefits, improved shoulder strength, and psychoemotional variables. Whether an exercise program was able to cause a clinical improvement for an individual with RCRSP was contingent on clinical contextual features. Thus, the clinical context that an exercise program is delivered within may be just as important as the exercise program itself. IMPACT: Exercise is a recommended first-line intervention to manage RCRSP. The results of this study suggest that a positive experience and outcome with exercise for RCRSP is contingent on several clinical contextual features, such as a strong therapeutic relationship. The clinical context that an exercise program is prescribed and delivered within should be considered by clinicians.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPhysical Therapy
Volume103
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2023

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