Technique Update: Shoulder Decompression No Better Than Placebo for Impingement

by Dr. David Graber, ANJC Council on Technique & Clinical Excellence Chair

A recent study published in The Lancet showed that arthroscopic decompression surgery for patients with subacromial impingement proved no better at relieving pain than a placebo surgery or no treatment at all. The trial was performed by Oxford University across 32 hospitals in the United Kingdom.

At six months, people who had decompression surgery and those who had placebo surgery rated their pain and function at a similar level, and both forms of surgery showed a small but not significant benefit over no treatment.

This was the first time the procedure was tested in a placebo-controlled trial, and the findings call into question it’s value for patients with subacromial shoulder pain and impingement.

“This study suggests that other treatments such as physiotherapy can be just as effective as shoulder surgery, and should be taken into consideration with patients considering surgery and could influence the decisions made by health providers,” said Natalie Carter, head of research liaison and evaluation at Arthritis Research UK.


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