Self-managed loaded exercise versus usual physiotherapy treatment for rotator cuff tendinopathy

Rotator cuff tendinopathy is often the cause of shoulder pain characterised by persistent and/or recurrent problems for a proportion of sufferers. The authors’ objective in this study was to pilot the methods proposed to conduct a substantive study to evaluate the effectiveness of a self-managed loaded exercise programme as opposed to usual physiotherapy treatment for rotator cuff tendinopathy. They conducted a single-centre pragmatic unblinded parallel group pilot randomised controlled trial at one private physiotherapy clinic, northern England. 24 individuals with rotator cuff tendinopathy were recruited.

The intervention was a programme of self-managed loaded exercise. The control group received usual physiotherapy treatment. Baseline assessment comprised the Shoulder Pain and Disability Index (SPADI) and the Short-Form 36, repeated three months after randomisation. The recruitment target was met and the majority of participants (98%) were willing to be randomised. 100% retention was attained with all participants completing the SPADI at three months. Exercise adherence rates were excellent (90%). The mean change in SPADI score was -23.7 (95% CI -14.4 to -33.3) points for the self-managed exercise group and -19.0 (95% CI -6.0 to -31.9) points for the usual physiotherapy treatment group. The difference in three month SPADI scores was 0.1 (95% CI -16.6 to 16.9) points in favour of the usual physiotherapy treatment group.

The authors concluded that in keeping with past research which suggest the need for further study of self-managed loaded exercise for rotator cuff tendinopathy, these methods and the preliminary evaluation of outcome offer a foundation and stimulus to undertake a substantive study.