Self-managed loaded exercise versus usual physiotherapy treatment for rotator cuff tendinopathy: A pilot randomised controlled trial

Chris Littlewood, Peter Malliaras, Sue Mawson, Stephen May, Stephen J. Walters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Rotator cuff tendinopathy is a common source of shoulder pain characterised by persistent and/or recurrent problems for a proportion of sufferers. The aim of this study was to pilot the methods proposed to conduct a substantive study to evaluate the effectiveness of a self-managed loaded exercise programme versus usual physiotherapy treatment for rotator cuff tendinopathy. 

Design: A single-centre pragmatic unblinded parallel group pilot randomised controlled trial. 

Setting: One private physiotherapy clinic, northern England. Participants: Twenty-four participants with rotator cuff tendinopathy. 

Interventions: The intervention was a programme of self-managed loaded exercise. The control group received usual physiotherapy treatment. 

Main outcomes: Baseline assessment comprised the Shoulder Pain and Disability Index (SPADI) and the Short-Form 36, repeated three months post randomisation. 

Results: 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. 

Conclusions: In keeping with previous research which indicates the need for further evaluation of self-managed loaded exercise for rotator cuff tendinopathy, these methods and the preliminary evaluation of outcome offer a foundation and stimulus to conduct a substantive study. 

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-60
Number of pages7
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Exercise
  • Quality of life
  • Randomised controlled trial
  • Rehabilitation
  • Rotator cuff tendinopathy

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