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$1 million NIH grant targets shoulder pain in patients with spinal injuries

Sara Mulroy, adjunct assistant professor of biokinesiology and physical therapy, has been awarded a five-year, $1.04 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research to study the risk factors for shoulder pain in patients with spinal cord injury.

Mulroy, who works in Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, a division at the USC School of Dentistry, is also director of the Pathokinesiology Laboratory at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center. She said the most common diagnoses for people with spinal cord injury who have shoulder pain are inflammation and tears in the rotator cuff tendons of the shoulder.

This pathology has been attributed to increased weight bearing on the arms during wheelchair propulsion, transfers in and out of a wheelchair and raising body weight on the arms to relieve pressure on the skin.

Pilot studies by Mulroy and colleagues at Rancho Los Amigos suggest that the movement pattern an individual uses to propel a wheelchair can impact the risk of developing shoulder pain.

In the NIH-funded study, Mulroy and her colleagues will follow 320 subjects with paraplegia from spinal cord injury for a period of three years to determine the factors associated with shoulder pain.

At the end of three years they compare the patterns of wheelchair propulsion, muscle strength and wheelchair activity levels in subjects who develop shoulder pain with those who remain pain-free.

The overall goal of the study is to develop recommendations to reduce the strain and joint deterioration that may occur with long-term weight bearing on the arms to prevent further loss of functional independence after spinal cord injury.

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$1 million NIH grant targets shoulder pain in patients with spinal injuries

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