Suprascapular nerve block for the treatment of frozen shoulder in primary care: a randomized trial

D S Jones, C Chattopadhyay
British Journal of General Practice 1999, 49 (438): 39-41

BACKGROUND: Frozen shoulder is a common problem in general practice, but its treatment is difficult since none of the currently used therapies are proven to be effective.

AIM: To assess the effectiveness of suprascapular nerve block to relieve pain and improve range of movement, and its suitability for use in primary care. This small study by a single practitioner aims to justify a larger multicentred trial.

METHOD: A randomized trial of 30 patients to compare a single suprascapular nerve block with a course of intra-articular injections. Patients' pain levels and ranges of movement were assessed over a 12-week period.

RESULTS: Suprascapular nerve block produced a faster and more complete resolution of pain and restoration of range of movement than a series of intra-articular injections. These differences were confirmed by statistical analysis using the Mann-Whitney U-test (P < 0.01 for pain levels and P < 0.05 for range of abduction and external rotation.)

CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that suprascapular nerve block is a safe and effective treatment for frozen shoulder in primary care, and justifies a larger multicentred trial using independent blinded assessment. Such a study should include a third group treated by suprascapular nerve block without steroid; a more comprehensive assessment of patient debility.

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