Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Effect of a standard exercise protocol on shoulder pain in long-term wheelchair users


Purpose: To analyze the effectiveness of a 6-month exercise protocol on shoulder pain experienced by wheelchair users during functional activities. Subjects: Forty-two wheelchair users, 35 males and seven females: average age of 35 years and an average duration of wheelchair use of 14 years. Methods: Subjects were randomly assigned to treatment (n=21) and control (n=21) groups. The treatment group received instruction in five shoulder exercises which they performed daily for 6 months. The exercise protocol included two exercises for stretching anterior shoulder musculature and three exercises for strengthening posterior shoulder musculature. Outcome measures: All subjects completed a self-report questionnaire and the Wheelchair Users Shoulder Pain Index (WUSPI) initially and at bimonthly intervals during the 6-month intervention. Results: Seventy-five per cent of the subjects reported a history of shoulder pain since beginning wheelchair use. The average initial performance-corrected (PC-WUSPI) score of the 42 subjects was 17.7 (±21.3) with a range of 0–103.2 points. Over 83% of the subjects (35 of 42) completed the 6-month study. Subjects in the treatment group decreased their PC-WUSPI score by an average of 39.9%, compared to decreases of only 2.5% in the control group. Conclusions: These findings supported the effectiveness of this exercise protocol in decreasing the intensity of shoulder pain which interferes with functional activity in wheelchair users.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to KA Curtis.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Curtis, K., Tyner, T., Zachary, L. et al. Effect of a standard exercise protocol on shoulder pain in long-term wheelchair users. Spinal Cord 37, 421–429 (1999).

Download citation


  • spinal cord injury-treatment
  • paraplegia
  • tetraplegia
  • shoulder
  • exercise

Further reading


Quick links