Applying a clinical decision-making model to a patient with severe shoulder pain ultimately diagnosed as neuralgic amyotrophy

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Physiother Theory Pract


Objective and Purpose: Shoulder symptoms are often encountered in physical therapy and a myriad of etiologies can cause these symptoms, either locally or remotely. The purpose of this case report is to describe the physical therapist's differential diagnostic process for a patient with acute and severe onset of shoulder pain.

Case Description: The patient was a 37-year-old female with sudden onset of right shoulder pain that awakened her at night. Pain was associated with decreased range of motion and shoulder weakness. Faced with an uncertain diagnosis, the physical therapist followed a systematic approach to clinical decision-making.

Outcomes: Neuralgic amyotrophy was the primary diagnostic hypothesis but other causes of shoulder pain could not be ruled out. Conclusion: The clinical decision-making process helped the physical therapist narrow down the differential diagnosis list and make a decision to send the patient for further testing. Magnetic resonance imaging and electromyogram confirmed the diagnosis of neuralgic amyotrophy.

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ePub ahead of print

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