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This article is the author’s final published version in International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, Volume 17, Issue 5, August 2022, Pages 887-895

The published version is available at Copyright © North American Sports Medicine Institute. All rights reserved.


Background: Percussive therapy is hypothesized to speed recovery by delivering gentle, rhythmic pulses to soft tissue. However, patients often present with a differential soreness response after percussive therapy, which may lead to altered clinical outcomes.

Purpose: To compare the acute effects of percussion therapy on passive range of motion (ROM) and tissue-specific ultrasound measures (pennation angle [PA] and muscle thickness [MT]) between healthy individuals responding positively vs. negatively to percussive therapy performed on the dominant arm posterior rotator cuff.

Study design: Cross-sectional laboratory study.

Methods: Fifty-five healthy individuals were assessed on a subjective soreness scale before and after a five-minute percussive therapy session on the dominant arm posterior rotator cuff muscles. Participants with no change or a decrease in muscle soreness were assigned to the positive response group and participants who reported an increase in muscle soreness were assigned to the negative response group. Passive internal rotation (IR) and external rotation (ER) ROM and strength, and muscle architecture of the infraspinatus and teres minor were measured via ultrasound on the dominant shoulder. All dependent variables were collected before percussive therapy, and 20 minutes following percussive therapy.

Results: The positive response group had greater improvements than the negative response group in dominant arm IR ROM (2.3° positive vs. -1.3° negative, p=0.021) and IR strength (1.1 lbs vs. -1.2 lbs, p=0.011) after percussive therapy. No differences in ER strength or ROM were observed between groups. Regarding muscle architecture, the positive group had a lesser change in teres minor MT (0.00 mm vs. 0.11 mm, p=0.019) after percussive therapy. All other muscle architecture changes were not statistically different between groups.

Conclusion: Participants with a positive response to percussive therapy had increased dominant arm IR ROM and IR strength, and decreased teres minor MT, after percussive therapy compared to the negative response participants.

Level of evidence: III.

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