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Effects of a home exercise programme on shoulder pain and functional status in construction workers
  1. P M Ludewig,
  2. J D Borstad
  1. Program in Physical Therapy, Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, The University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 A/Prof. P M Ludewig
 Program in Physical Therapy, Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, The University of Minnesota, MMC 388, 420 Delaware Street, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA; ludew001{at}


Background: Repetitive or sustained elevated shoulder postures have been identified as a significant risk factor for occupationally related shoulder musculoskeletal disorders. Construction workers exposed to routine overhead work have high rates of shoulder pain that frequently progresses to functional loss and disability. Exercise interventions have potential for slowing this progression.

Aims: To evaluate a therapeutic exercise programme intended to reduce pain and improve shoulder function.

Methods: Construction worker volunteers were screened by history and clinical examination to test for inclusion/exclusion criteria consistent with shoulder pain and impingement syndrome. Sixty seven male symptomatic workers (mean age 49) were randomised into a treatment intervention group (n = 34) and a control group (n = 33); asymptomatic subjects (n = 25) participated as an additional control group. Subjects in the intervention group were instructed in a standardised eight week home exercise programme of five shoulder stretching and strengthening exercises. Subjects in the control groups received no intervention. Subjects returned after 8–12 weeks for follow up testing.

Results: The intervention group showed significantly greater improvements in the Shoulder Rating Questionnaire (SRQ) score and shoulder satisfaction score than the control groups. Average post-test SRQ scores for the exercise group remained below levels for asymptomatic workers. Intervention subjects also reported significantly greater reductions in pain and disability than controls.

Conclusions: Results suggest a home exercise programme can be effective in reducing symptoms and improving function in construction workers with shoulder pain.

  • shoulder impingement
  • randomised controlled clinical trial
  • shoulder exercise
  • ANOVA, analysis of variance
  • SEM, standard error of the measurement
  • SRD, smallest real difference
  • SPADI, Shoulder Pain and Disability Index
  • SRQ, Shoulder Rating Questionnaire

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  • This project was funded by the Center to Protect Worker’s Rights, the Public Health Service, and the University of Iowa, USA (grant # U60/CCU317202)