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Shoulder Preservation in Spinal Cord Injury: One Clinic’s Approach to Treatment and Prevention


Purpose of Review

Shoulder pain in those with spinal cord injury (SCI) is a debilitating condition that creates significant secondary complications. This review will present recent literature exploring shoulder pain demographics, causes, treatment recommendations, and one clinic’s stance on treatment and prevention.

Recent Findings

Shoulder pain affects between 37 and 84% of the population living with spinal cord injury. Home-based programs have been found to be effective in reducing pain levels by nearly 50%, to improve the functional independence, participation, and quality of life of those affected. However, only half of those with pain actually seek treatment.


Shoulder pain may be imminent following SCI; it may be part of living with paralysis as a result of muscle imbalance, from the daily wear and tear from intense loads, overuse, and repetitive tasks. Shoulder pain has been proven responsive to home-based exercise programs and it is recommended that all individuals with SCI-related paralysis adhere to a shoulder preservation home exercise program as a means to prevent the debilitating effects of shoulder pain.

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Author information

Correspondence to Jennifer Silvestri.

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The author declares that she has no competing interests.

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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation

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Silvestri, J. Shoulder Preservation in Spinal Cord Injury: One Clinic’s Approach to Treatment and Prevention. Curr Phys Med Rehabil Rep 6, 197–203 (2018).

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  • Shoulder preservation
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Home exercise program
  • Upper extremity rehabilitation