Although physiotherapy and corticosteroid injections are commonly used in the treatment of rotator cuff disorders, their effectiveness hasn’t previously been proven. Now, a new large-scale study has provided some insight into patient outcomes, following these common treatments.
Here, we’ll look at what the study found and why physiotherapy is largely used to treat rotator cuff tears.
Understanding the new study
The large-scale study was a randomised, controlled, pragmatic, and multicentre trial. A total of 708 patients aged 18 and over who had a rotator cuff tear, were recruited from 20 National Health Service trusts within the UK.
It excluded those who had other shoulder conditions, alongside a history of shoulder trauma. Patients were randomly assigned a treatment program. The treatments included a single physiotherapy session with or without corticosteroid injections and ongoing physiotherapy sessions.
The results showed that progressive exercise wasn’t more effective than a best practice advice session for improving pain and function. It also showed that corticosteroid injections don’t provide long-term benefits for patients suffering from a rotator cuff disorder.
Its findings towards physiotherapy were promising, with patients experiencing significant improvements over progressive exercise.
Is physiotherapy better than surgery?
If you suffer a rotator cuff tear, there are several treatment options available. While surgery might be required, physiotherapy and conservative treatments can be beneficial.
A physiotherapist can help to address issues with pain and stiffness within the joint. They will work with you to improve coordination, build up muscle strength, and improve your range of motion.
If you do need to undergo surgery, a physiotherapist can still help both before and after the procedure.
The three stages of rehabilitation
After a rotator cuff repair surgery, there are typically three stages of rehabilitation you’ll go through with a physiotherapist.
Stage 1: The first stage aims to aid tendon and bone healing while preventing issues with scar tissue and stiffness. You’ll focus on lighter activities during this first phase, such as scapula and passive exercises.
This rehabilitation stage can take anywhere from 1-6 weeks.
Stage 2: In the second stage, you’ll start to use your shoulder muscles again, switching to more active exercises. Aquatic therapy, isometric exercises, and progressive scapula exercises are all used during this stage.
You’ll go through stage 2 rehabilitation for around 7 to 12 weeks.
Stage 3: In the final stage, you’ll start to introduce resistance training into your treatment plan. This includes functional lifting and resistive exercises.
Patients will typically go through stage 3 rehabilitation for 12 or more weeks.
The above is just a brief guideline for what to expect when undergoing physiotherapy for a rotator cuff tear. To determine whether physiotherapy is a good treatment option for you, book a consultation with a shoulder specialist today.