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BMJ Group Medical Reference

Your physiotherapist may treat your painful shoulder with ultrasound (soundwaves to treat pain), but this is unlikely to help. One summary of the research (a systematic review) looked at whether having ultrasound for six weeks helped with shoulder pain.The summary found that after one year, both the people who'd had ultrasound and the people who'd had fake ultrasound (a placebo) had similar amounts of pain and problems with moving their shoulder. [62]

Another study compared ultrasound with laser treatment. It found that people who had laser treatment had less pain after two weeks than those who had ultrasound. However, there wasn't much difference between the groups in how well they could move their shoulder and how they rated their symptoms overall. [37]

We don't know if ultrasound can be harmful because the research doesn't tell us for sure.


laser therapy

Laser therapy is when surgeons use a laser to perform certain operations. For example, diabetes can make people grow new blood vessels in their eyes, which can affect their sight. Laser surgery can be used to remove these blood vessels.


A placebo is a 'pretend' or dummy treatment that contains no active substances. A placebo is often given to half the people taking part in medical research trials, for comparison with the 'real' treatment. It is made to look and taste identical to the drug treatment being tested, so that people in the studies do not know if they are getting the placebo or the 'real' treatment. Researchers often talk about the 'placebo effect'. This is where patients feel better after having a placebo treatment because they expect to feel better. Tests may indicate that they actually are better. In the same way, people can also get side effects after having a placebo treatment. Drug treatments can also have a 'placebo effect'. This is why, to get a true picture of how well a drug works, it is important to compare it against a placebo treatment.

systematic reviews

A systematic review is a thorough look through published research on a particular topic. Only studies that have been carried out to a high standard are included. A systematic review may or may not include a meta-analysis, which is when the results from individual studies are put together.


Ultrasound is a tool doctors use to create images of the inside of your body. An ultrasound machine sends out high-frequency sound waves, which are directed at an area of your body. The waves reflect off parts of your body to create a picture. Ultrasound is often used to see a developing baby inside a woman's womb.

For more terms related to Shoulder pain


For references related to Shoulder pain click here.
Last Updated: August 23, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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