Management of atraumatic shoulder instability in physiotherapy (MASIP): a survey of physiotherapy practice

Caroline Coulthard, Mindy Cairns, Deborah Williams, Ben Hughes, Anju Jaggi

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Background: The impact of atraumatic shoulder instability (ASI) on patients can be extensive, its management complex, with a biopsychosocial approach recommended. Currently how physiotherapists manage ASI is unknown or the extent to which current clinical practice aligns with existing evidence. At the time of this study no national guidelines or consensus to direct practice existed. 
Methods: A cross-sectional electronic survey was distributed between July-September 2018, targeting UK-based physiotherapists managing shoulder pathology. Respondents were invited to describe their management of ASI, and rate their awareness and utilisation of various treatment techniques on a Likert-scale; median and interquartile ranges were calculated. Free text survey items were analysed using quantitative content analysis (QCA) to identify codes and categories. Means and percentages were calculated to summarise QCA and descriptive data. 
Results: Valid survey responses were analysed (n = 135). Respondents had between 2 and 39 years of physiotherapy experience (mean = 13.9 years); the majority (71.1 %) reported that ASI made up < 10 % of their caseload. Only 22.9 % (n = 31/135) of respondents reported feeling ‘very confident’ in managing ASI; the majority feeling ‘somewhat confident’ (70.4 %, n = 95/135) or ‘not confident’ (6.7 %, n = 9/135). The majority of respondents (59.3 %) used an ASI classification system, > 90 % citing the Stanmore Classification. Physiotherapists adapted their management according to clinical presentation, responding to differing biopsychosocial needs of the patient scenario. Most respondents (> 80 %) did not use a protocol to guide their management. Exercise was the most utilised management approach for ASI, followed by education; novel treatment strategies, including cortical rehabilitation, were also reported. 
Conclusion: Findings indicate physiotherapists utilise a wide range of treatment strategies and respond to biopsychosocial cues when managing patients with ASI. The majority reported not being very confident in managing this condition, however only a minority use rehabilitation protocols to support their management. Some interventions that respondents reported using lacked evidence to support their use in ASI management and further research regarding effectiveness is required. Guidelines have been published since this survey; the impact of these will need evaluating to determine their effectiveness in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Article number840
Pages (from-to)840
Number of pages14
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Issue number1
Early online date30 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2021


  • Research
  • Shoulder
  • Instability
  • Physiotherapy
  • Atraumatic
  • Survey
  • Glenohumeral
  • Management
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Shoulder Joint
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Joint Instability/diagnosis


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