Electrotherapy modalities for adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder) (Review)

Authors: Page MJ, Green S, Kramer S, Johnston RV, McBain B, Buchbinder R
Source: The Cochrane Library 2014, Issue 10
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Adhesive capsulitis (also termed frozen shoulder) is a common condition characterised by spontaneous onset of pain, progressive restriction of movement of the shoulder and disability that restricts activities of daily living, work and leisure. Electrotherapy modalities, which aim to reduce pain and improve function via an increase in energy (electrical, sound, light, thermal) into the body, are often delivered as components of a physical therapy intervention. This review is one in a series of reviews which form an update of the Cochrane review ’Physiotherapy interventions for shoulder pain’.


To synthesise the available evidence regarding the benefits and harms of electrotherapy modalities, delivered alone or in combination with other interventions, for the treatment of adhesive capsulitis.

Authors’ conclusions

Based upon low quality evidence from one trial, LLLT for six days may be more effective than placebo in terms of global treatment success at six days. Based upon moderate quality evidence from one trial, LLLT plus exercise for eight weeks may be more effective than exercise alone in terms of pain up to four weeks, and function up to four months. It is unclear whether PEMF is more or less effective than placebo, or whether other electrotherapy modalities are an effective adjunct to exercise. Further high quality randomised controlled trials are needed to establish the benefits and harms of physical therapy interventions (that comprise electrotherapy modalities, manual therapy and exercise, and are reflective of clinical practice) compared to interventions with evidence of benefit (for example glucocorticoid injection or arthrographic joint distension).

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