Physiotherapists take on new role in treating frozen shoulder

Physiotherapists at a London NHS trust have had great success from an innovative project that saw a new pathway for treating frozen shoulder.

Dr Jeremy Lewis and Eoin Ó Conaire, both specialist musculoskeletal physios at Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust, have been trained to offer glenohumeral joint distention to patients as part of their injection clinic.

They won Health Foundation ‘Shine’ awards funding in April 2011 for the 12-month project.

Frozen shoulder affects from two to five per cent of the population, and from 10 to 20 per cent of people with diabetes. The normal pathway sees patients referred by their GP to orthopaedics, followed by referral to radiology and then review back in orthopaedics.

Mr Ó Conaire said it made sense for physiotherapists to offer the treatment in a primary care setting instead.

‘To our knowledge, this is the first time physiotherapists have offered this service in a primary care setting.’

Dr Lewis and Mr Ó Conaire were trained by a consultant sonographer, who then signed them off to use the guided glenohumeral joint distension procedure with patients.

A subsequent health economic analysis has found the pathway offers savings on both staff and equipment, with a total saving of £135.68 for each patient.

Mr Ó Conaire said the pathway is also much quicker and more efficient. ‘Everything is offered on one site, with diagnosis, the injection treatment and the follow up and rehabilitation all taking place at the clinic.’

Sally Priestley

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