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J Bone Joint Surg Br. 2003 Apr;85(3):419-22.

Rehabilitation after two-part fractures of the neck of the humerus.

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  • 1Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, England, UK.


We undertook a prospective, controlled trial which compared two rehabilitation programmes for 86 patients who sustained two-part fractures of the proximal humerus. Patients were randomised either to receive immediate physiotherapy within one week (group A) or delayed physiotherapy after three weeks of immobilisation in a collar and cuff sling (group B). At 16 weeks after the fracture, patients in group A had less pain (p < 0.01) and had greater shoulder function (p < 0.001) than those in group B. At 52 weeks, the differences between the groups had reduced. Although group A still had greater shoulder function and less pain, there was no statistical difference when compared with group B. By analysis of the area under the curve, an overall measure up to the 52-week period, group A experienced less pain as measured by the SF36 general health questionnaire and had improved shoulder function. Our results show that patients with two-part fractures of the proximal humerus who begin immediate physiotherapy, experience less pain. The gains in shoulder function persist at 52 weeks which suggests that patients do not benefit from immobilisation before beginning physiotherapy.

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