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Physiother Res Int. 2008 Sep;13(3):153-61. doi: 10.1002/pri.403.

The addition of aquatic therapy to rehabilitation following surgical rotator cuff repair: a feasibility study.

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  • 1Discipline of Physiotherapy, School of Health Sciences, University of Sydney, NSW, Australia. bernadette.brady@sswahs.nsw.gov.au



Rotator cuff tears are frequently encountered in medical outpatient settings and often require surgical repair to achieve desirable functional outcomes. However, the optimal form of post-operative rehabilitation of rotator cuff repairs remains unidentified by the research literature. The aim of this study was to determine the feasibility of implementing and investigating the effect of a combined aquatic and land-based rehabilitation programme in the post-operative rehabilitation of rotator cuff tears.


A cohort of 18 subjects undergoing rotator cuff repair were examined over a treatment period of 12 weeks. Twelve subjects participated in a combined aquatic and land-based programme, while six subjects received a standard land-based protocol. Passive range of motion and the Western Ontario Rotator Cuff Index outcomes were measured pre-operatively and at three, six and 12 weeks, post-operatively. Subjective responses on patient's assurance and confidence in the value of the exercises (questionnaire using an 11-point Visual Analogue Scale (VAS)) were collected at 12 weeks for both groups.


There was a significant improvement in both range of motion and Western Ontario Rotator Cuff scores in all subjects with treatment (p < 0.001). Furthermore, participation in aquatic therapy significantly improved passive flexion range of motion measures at three weeks (mean 46 degrees , 95% CI 17-75, p = 0.005) and six weeks (30 degrees , 95% CI 8-51, p = 0.01). There was no significant difference in the attendance rates (80% in both groups) or patients perceptions of the programmes (100% confidence and assurance in both groups).


The implementation of a combined aquatic and land-based physiotherapy programme following surgical repair of the rotator cuff is feasible and presents a potential viable alternative to conventional land-based exercise with comparable outcomes.

Copyright (c) 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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