The objective of this study was to evaluate the clinical effectiveness of a self-managed single exercise programme versus usual physiotherapy treatment for rotator cuff tendinopathy through a multi-centre pragmatic unblinded parallel group RCT. The intervention was a programme of self-managed exercise prescribed by a physiotherapist in relation to the most symptomatic shoulder movement. The control group received usual physiotherapy treatment wit the primary outcome measure being the SPADI at 3, 6 and 12 months. A total of 86 patients (self-managed loaded exercise n=42; usual physiotherapy n=44) were randomised. Twenty-six patients were excluded from the analysis because of lack of primary outcome data at the 3 months follow-up, leaving 60 (n=27; n=33) patients for intention to treat analysis. For the primary outcome, the mean SPADI score at three months was 32.4 (SD 20.2) for the self-managed group, and 30.7 (SD 19.7) for the usual physiotherapy treatment group; mean difference adjusted for baseline score: 3.2 (95% Confidence interval -6.0 to +12.4 P = 0.49).By six and twelve months there remained no significant difference between the groups.
This study does not provide sufficient evidence of superiority of one intervention over the other in the short-, mid- or long-term and hence a self-management programme based around a single exercise appears comparable to usual physiotherapy treatment.