This was a systematic review to evaluate the efficacy of manual therapy (MT) for patients with rotator cuff tendinopathy. Twenty-one studies were included. The majority had a high risk of bias. Only 5 studies had a score of 69% or greater, indicating a moderate to low risk of bias. A small but statistically significant overall effect for pain reduction of MT compared with a placebo or in addition to another intervention was observed (n = 406), which may or may not be clinically important, given a mean difference of 1.1 (95% confidence interval: 0.6, 1.6) on a 10-cm visual analog scale. Adding MT to an exercise program (n = 226) significantly decreased pain (mean difference, 1.0; 95% confidence interval: 0.7, 1.4), as reported on a 10-cm visual analog scale, which may or may not be clinically important. Based on qualitative analyses, it is unclear whether MT used alone or added to an exercise program improves function.
For patients with RC tendinopathy, based on low- to moderate-quality evidence, MT may decrease pain; however, it is unclear whether it can improve function. More methodologically sound studies are needed to make definitive conclusions.