Exercise for rotator cuff tendinopathy: A systematic review

Chris Littlewood*, Jon Ashton, Ken Chance-Larsen, Stephen May, Ben Sturrock

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

131 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Shoulder pain due to rotator cuff tendinopathy is a common problem. Exercise is one intervention used to address this problem but conclusions from previous reviews have been mixed. Objective: To systematically review the effectiveness of exercise, incorporating loaded exercise (against gravity or resistance), for rotator cuff tendinopathy. Data sources: An electronic search of AMED, CiNAHL, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, PEDro and SPORTDiscus was undertaken from their inception to November 2010 and supplemented by hand searching related articles and contact with topic experts. Study eligibility criteria: Randomised controlled trials evaluating the effectiveness of exercise, incorporating loaded exercise, in participants with rotator cuff tendinopathy. Study appraisal and synthesis methods: Included studies were appraised for risk of bias using the tool developed by the Cochrane Back review Group. Due to heterogeneity of studies, a narrative synthesis was undertaken based upon levels of evidence. Results: Five articles detailing four studies were included, all of which were regarded as presenting a low risk of bias. Overall, the literature was supportive of the use of exercise in terms of pain and functional disability. Limitations: The results should be regarded with some degree of caution due to limitations associated with the studies including lack of blinding, no intervention control groups and limitations of the outcome measures used. Conclusion and implications of key findings: The available literature is supportive of the use of exercise but due to the paucity of research and associated limitations further study is indicated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-109
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2012


  • Exercise
  • Rotator cuff
  • Systematic review
  • Tendinopathy


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