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Optimistic attitude to physiotherapy linked to successful recovery from shoulder pain

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A positive attitude can help you recover from shoulder pain, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and University of Hertfordshire studied more than 1,000 people who were undergoing physiotherapy for shoulder pain.

“Physiotherapy management is effective for many people with shoulder pain, but not everyone,” explained lead researcher Dr Rachel Chester, from UEA’s School of Health Sciences. “We wanted to find out what factors predict why some people do better than others.”

The research showed that those who expected physiotherapy to help them were likely to recover more than those who expected minimal or no benefit.

Patients were also more likely to recover if they had the confidence to carry on doing most things, despite their pain — known as ‘pain self-efficacy’.

Interestingly, people suffering more pain, but who were confident in their ability to still do most things despite their pain, were likely to recover better with physiotherapy than those suffering less pain, but who weren’t confident.

Dr Chester said: “We looked at people who started off with a high level of pain and disability and found that the more they believed in their own ability to do things and reach a desired recovery outcome — the less likely they were to be in pain and have limited function after six months.

“What really surprised us was that these people were more likely to have a better outcome than people who reported a low level of baseline pain and disability but had low pain self-efficacy.

“In addition, on average, people who expected to recover because of physiotherapy did better than those who expected minimal or no benefit.

“We recommend that physiotherapists help patients understand and manage their pain and to select treatments and exercises which help them build confidence in their shoulder and optimise their activity levels. This includes helping patients to gain the confidence to get back on track after a flare-up.”