Exercise Into Pain in Chronic Rotator Cuff Related Shoulder Pain: a Prospective Single-Group Feasibility Study


Universiteit Antwerpen




Shoulder Impingement Syndrome


Other: Exercise therapy (exercising into pain)

Study type


Funder types




Details and patient eligibility


The purpose of this study is to evaluate a) the feasibility of applying a painful exercise program in the treatment of subacromial shoulder pain and b) the time needed to collect clinical outcomes for a future randomized controlled trial.

Full description

Exercise therapy is the first choice of treatment in the management of subacromial shoulder pain (SSP). Guidelines suggest active rehabilitation program for at least three months and existing research highlights the importance of progressive loaded exercise therapy at higher dosage. However, it is not clear which is the best type of exercise and if pain should be provoked during exercise. Recent research found that painful exercises are beneficial in short term on pain and function in patients with different kinds of chronic musculoskeletal pain. The aim of the future randomized clinical trial is to investigate if "exercising into pain" gives better results in term of clinical outcomes compared to a non-painful exercise program. Since the intervention consists in painful exercises, it is essential to test the rate of adherence in the intervention group (both during physiotherapist-led session and home-based exercises). Moreover, the practicability of clinical questionnaire via online survey will be tested and the time needed to collect clinical data will be calculated as well. Furthermore, feedback from physiotherapists and participants will be collected and analyzed.


12 patients




18 to 65 years old


No Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

  • Age 18-65 years
  • Shoulder pain for at least 3 months
  • Pain in the antero-lateral shoulder region
  • At least 3 out of 5 of the following tests positive: Neer test, Hawkins-Kennedy, Jobe, painful arc between 60° and 120°, external resistance test
  • Resting pain should be at 2/10 maximum on verbal NRS scale
  • All types of occupations were included: students, workers (including overhead workers or heavy duty workers), people on sick leave and retired people

Exclusion criteria

  • Bilateral shoulder pain
  • Corticosteroid injections 6 weeks prior to the study
  • Pregnancy, inability to understand spoken or written Dutch
  • Clinical signs of full-thickness rotator cuff tears (positive external and internal rotation lag tests and drop arm test)
  • Evidence of adhesive capsulitis (50% or more than 30° loss of passive external rotation)
  • Previous cervical, thoracic or shoulder surgery; recent fractures or dislocations on the painful shoulder
  • Symptoms of cervical radiculopathy as primary complaint (tingling, radiating pain in the arm associated with neck complaints)
  • Primary diagnosis of acromioclavicular pathology, shoulder instability
  • A radiologically confirmed fracture or presence of calcification larger than 5 mm
  • Presence of competing pathologies (inflammatory arthritis, neurological disorders, fibromyalgia, malignancy)
  • More than 4h of training in sport overhead shoulder activities per week

Trial design

12 participants in 1 patient group

Painful exercises
Experimental group
The pain allowed during exercises ranges between 4 and 7 on NPRS (Numeric Pain Rating Scale)
Other: Exercise therapy (exercising into pain)

Trial contacts and locations



Data sourced from clinicaltrials.gov

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