Physiotherapy can benefit most patients with full thickness rotator cuff tears and shoulder pain, avoiding the requirement for surgery, report researchers from Nashville, Tennessee at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). This is reported in Medscape Orthopedics.
Rotator cuff tears are a degenerative condition which occur commonly in older people, with perhaps 10% of people over 60 years developing a tear. A typical saying of orthopaedic surgeons when presented with an older person with shoulder pain is “Grey hair equals cuff tear”.
Their physiotherapy programme was successful in 90% of patients (i.e. it avoided surgery) and the effects lasted at least for two years.
Rotator cuff tears are often painful and can be really disruptive to normal activity and particularly to sleep. Further details are here under degenerative disease of the rotator cuff.
Patients in the physiotherapy programme did most of their treatment on their own at home and the regime included postural exercises, active assisted exercises, training of the shoulder blade muscles, active range of movement and stretching. Rotator cuff muscle exercises were also performed.
As physiotherapy cannot heal or otherwise greatly alter a rotator cuff tear itself, it is not clear exactly why the pain was relieved with this programme. Pain may now be less of a reason to perform rotator cuff surgery as it responds well to therapy.
Brighton physiotherapists are skilled in assessing and treating rotator cuff tears and injuries and are up to date with the latest shoulder exercise protocols.