What is the role of physical therapy in the maintenance phase of rotator cuff treatment?

Updated: Oct 25, 2018
  • Author: Gerard A Malanga, MD; Chief Editor: Craig C Young, MD  more...
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Return to task-specific or sport-specific activities is the last phase of rehabilitation. This phase is an advanced form of proprioceptive training for the muscles to relearn previous activities. It is an important phase of rehabilitation and should be supervised properly to minimize the possibility of reinjury. Rehabilitation begins at a cognitive level but must be practiced so that transition to unconscious motor programming occurs. All various phases of shoulder injury rehabilitation may overlap and can progress as rapidly as tolerated, but all should be performed to speed recovery and prevent reinjury.

At the conclusion of formal therapy sessions, patients should be independent in an ROM and strengthening program and should continue these exercises, initially under supervision and then completely on their own. A natural tendency exists for patients to abandon the home program once they feel better; however, patients must be encouraged to continue a maintenance exercise program to prevent symptom relapse. Athletes are often tempted to return to their overhead throwing sport too soon after recovery of the acute phase.

A meta-analysis by Mazuquin et al of 10 systematic reviews and 11 randomized-controlled trials of patients who underwent surgery repair for chronic rotator cuff tears found little difference between early and conservative rehabilitation after surgical repair in terms of function, pain, range of motion, and retear ratio. [34]

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