Therapeutic Exercise for rotator cuff tendinopathy: A systematic review of contextual factors and prescription parameters

Chris Littlewood, Peter Malliaras, Ken Chance-Larsen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

79 Citations (Scopus)


Exercise is widely regarded as an effective intervention for symptomatic rotator cuff tendinopathy but the prescription is diverse and the important components of such programmes are not well understood. The objective of this study was to systematically review the contextual factors and prescription parameters of published exercise programmes for rotator cuff tendinopathy, to generate recommendations based on current evidence. An electronic search of AMED, CiNAHL, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, PEDro and SPORTDiscus was undertaken from their inception to June 2014 and supplemented by hand searching. Eligible studies included randomized controlled trials evaluating the effectiveness of exercise in participants with rotator cuff tendinopathy. Included studies were appraised using the Cochrane risk of bias tool and synthesized narratively. Fourteen studies were included, and suggested that exercise programmes are widely applicable and can be successfully designed by physiotherapists with varying experience; whether the exercise is completed at home or within a clinic setting does not appear to matter and neither does pain production or pain avoidance during exercise; inclusion of some level of resistance does seem to matter although the optimal level is unclear, the optimal number of repetitions is also unclear but higher repetitions might confer superior outcomes; three sets of exercise are preferable to two or one set but the optimal frequency is unknown; most programmes should demonstrate clinically significant outcomes by 12 weeks. This systematic review has offered preliminary guidance in relation to contextual factors and prescription parameters to aid development and application of exercise programmes for rotator cuff tendinopathy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-106
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Rehabilitation Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Exercise
  • Rotator cuff
  • Systematic review
  • Tendinopathy

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