Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Effects and predictors of shoulder muscle massage for patients with posterior shoulder tightness

Jing-lan Yang1, Shiau-yee Chen2, Ching-Lin Hsieh13 and Jiu-jenq Lin45*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan

2 Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Taipei Medical University-Municipal Wan Fang Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan

3 School of Occupational Therapy, College of Medicine, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan

4 School and Graduate Institute of Physical Therapy, College of Medicine, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan

5 Adjunct Physical Therapist, Physical Therapy Center, National Taiwan University Hospital, Floor 3, No. 17, Xuzhou Rd, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City 100, Taiwan

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2012, 13:46  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-13-46

Published: 27 March 2012



Clinical approaches like mobilization, stretching, and/or massage may decrease shoulder tightness and improve symptoms in subjects with stiff shoulders. We investigated the effect and predictors of effectiveness of massage in the treatment of patients with posterior shoulder tightness.


A randomized controlled trial was conducted in a hospital-based outpatient practice (orthopedic and rehabilitation). Forty-three women and 17 men (mean age = 54 years, range 43-73 years) with posterior shoulder tightness participated and were randomized into massage and control groups (n = 30 per group). A physical therapist provided the massage on the posterior deltoid, infraspinatus, and teres minor of the involved shoulder for 18 minutes [about 6 minutes for each muscle] two times a week for 4 weeks. For the control group, one therapist applied light hand touch on the muscles 10 minutes two times a week for 4 weeks. Glenohumeral internal rotation ROM, functional status, and muscle tightness were the main outcomes. Additionally, the potential factors on the effectiveness of massage were analyzed by multivariate logistic regression. For this analysis, patients with functional score improvement at least 20% after massage were considered responsive, and the others were considered nonresponsive.


Fifty-two patients completed the study (29 for the massage and 23 for the control). The overall mean internal rotation ROM increased significantly in the massage group compared to the control (54.9° v.s. 34.9°; P ≤ 0.001). There were 21 patients in the responsive group and 8 in the nonresponsive group. Among the factors, duration of symptoms, functional score, and posterior deltoid tightness were significant predictors of effectiveness of massage.


Massage was an effective treatment for patients with posterior shoulder tightness, but was less effective in patients with longer duration of symptoms, higher functional limitation, and less posterior deltoid tightness.

Trial registration

This clinical trial is registered at Trial Registration "Trial registration: NCT01022827".

Massage; Stiff shoulder; Range of motion