A recent study published in the Journal of Pain Research suggests a promising future for the use of multimodal digital musculoskeletal (MSK) care programs in helping those afflicted with chronic shoulder pain. According to the clinical study, conducted by the digital health company SWORD Health, a participation group of 296 patients reported 55% decreases in both pain and the intention to seek surgery, and a 52% reduction in disability due to shoulder issues. The participants also reported a 50% reduction in anxiety, 64% less depression, with a reduction in productivity losses reported at 67%. Plus a 44.1% decrease in medication intake. 

Patients in the study participated in SWORD Health’s telehealth care programs, which match patients with Doctors of Physical Therapy from start to finish of clinically validated programs that focus on chronic pain and post-surgical recovery among the MSK-related issues. SWORD Health’s digital solutions include its text-based ASK a PT service that offers 24/7 access to Doctors of Physical Therapy, and their Digital Guardian, which employs a wearable device to monitor risks for developing MSK conditions, offering haptic feedback in real-time.

This management of MSK pain meets a pressing need; according to SWORD Health, chronic shoulder pain is one of the most common primary care MSK complaints. SWORD Health’s findings show that about 50% of shoulder pain cases become chronic, with a lifetime prevalence of almost 70%. Most of these cases — 65% to 75% — include issues with rotator cuff tendons (ROCTs), with incidents increasing for those 40-years-old and over. These MSK issues have an impact beyond personal pain; shoulder disorders account for the loss of between 1.8 and 8.1 working years for those afflicted, according to SWORD Health, which estimates the annual financial cost of rotator cuff injury management in the United States to be $3 billion.