Margaret Finley recalls that, when she began working toward her PhD two decades ago, “I learned from my studies that upwards of 85 percent of people in a manual wheelchair have shoulder problems.”
That statistic became a challenge. In the years since, most of Finleyʼs research has focused on finding ways to prevent or relieve shoulder pain, especially for people in wheelchairs due to a spinal cord injury.
“We need to be proactive in preventing these shoulder problems rather than reactive in treating them once they happen,” says Finley, PT, PhD, a researcher who also teaches in the Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences Departmentʼs DPT, DHSc and PhD programs.
IMPROVING QUALITY OF LIFE
For people who specifically suffered a spinal cord injury, Finley says, shoulder pain diminishes the quality of life and the ability to participate in recreational and daily activities with others.
Her research explores ways “to limit that decrease in participation or help them facilitate it and improve their quality of life,” she says.
HOW PAIN DEVELOPS
With a three-year, multi-site grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, Finley and her two PhD students are studying people with new spinal cord injuries, following up with them at six months and one year to investigate when shoulder pain develops and how it progresses—not just physically, but psychologically as well.
The goal is to better understand why some people wind up with chronic shoulder pain, while others donʼt.
Over the years, Finley says, her research has taught her “not to take for granted the physical abilities we have. And Iʼve learned how resilient people can be over time.”