The Relationship Between Fear Avoidance Beliefs, Muscle Strength, and Short-Term Disability After Surgical Repair of Shoulder Instability

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Context: Arthroscopic surgical repair of the shoulder is recommended when conservative treatment for shoulder instability (SI) fails. However, many patients undergoing this procedure do not return to same level of activity. Psychological factors and muscle strength have been shown to be associated with postoperative outcomes in other musculoskeletal conditions. Objective: To investigate the association between fear avoidance, muscle strength, and short-term function in patients after surgical SI repair. Methods: Twenty-five male patients who underwent shoulder surgery following at least one event of SI were included in this study. Evaluations of fear avoidance related to physical activity and disability were performed at baseline (during the first encounter with the physical therapist) and 7 to 8 weeks postsurgery. Fear avoidance beliefs were assessed using the Fear Avoidance Beliefs Questionnaire. Disability was assessed using the Disabilities of Arm, Shoulder, and Hand questionnaire and the Western Ontario SI index. The follow-up evaluation (weeks 7–8) included measurement of maximal isometric strength of the internal and external rotators. Nonparametric Kendall tau was used to determine the correlations between baseline fear avoidance, muscle strength, and disability at follow-up. Results: Disabilities of Arm, Shoulder, and Hand questionnaire at follow-up was significantly correlated with baseline Disabilities of Arm, Shoulder, and Hand questionnaire (τ = .520, P < .001), baseline fear avoidance (τ = .399, P = .008), and both internal rotator (τ = −.400, P = .005) and external rotator strength (τ = −.353, P = .014). Western Ontario SI index at follow-up was moderately correlated with baseline Western Ontario SI index (τ = .387, P = .007), internal rotator (τ = −.427, P = .003), and external rotator (τ = −.307, P = .032), but not with baseline Fear Avoidance Beliefs Questionnaire (τ = .22, P = .145). Conclusions: The results indicate a possible association between fear avoidance beliefs and short-term disability. Further studies are warranted to better explore and understand these relationships.

The authors are with the Department of Physical Therapy, Ariel University, Ariel, Israel.

Springer (shmuels@ariel.ac.il) is corresponding author.
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