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Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2010 Sep;46(3):315-24. Epub 2010 Apr 13.

Are intra-articular corticosteroid injections better than conventional TENS in treatment of rotator cuff tendinitis in the short run? A randomized study.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Ege University Faculty of Medicine, Pain Clinic, Bornova-Izmir-Turkey.



Rotator cuff problems are common causes of pain and restriction of movement in shoulder. The aim of this study to compare the effect of intra-articular injection of corticosteroid and conventional transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) treatment in treatment of rotator cuff tendinitis.


Subjects were randomly allocated into Group 1 (intra-articular injection of corticosteroid) and Group 2 (conventional transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation-TENS). Outcome measurements were performed using the Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) for pain, range of motion (ROM), the Shoulder Disability Questionnaire (SDQ), the Short Form-36 (SF-36), and Beck Depression Scale (BDS) questionnaires and paracetamol consumption.


In both groups, significant improvement was observed in all weeks in VAS, ROM and SDQ scores (P<0.05). Improvement was detected in most of the SF36 scores at the end of the treatment in both groups (P<0.05), while no significant change was observed in BDI score (P>0.05). In both treatment groups, paracetamol consumption decreased in time (P<0.05). When the groups were compared, a significant difference was found between the groups in favor of Group 1 in terms of VAS-at night and VAS-at rest in weeks 1, 4 and 12, and VAS-during movement in week 1 and 12 (P<0.05). The comparison of two groups revealed a significant difference in favor of Group 1 in weeks 1 in the passive abduction and the active and passive IR ROM measurements (P<0.05). There was also a significant difference in favor of Group 1 observed in weeks 1 in SDQ scores (P<0.05).


Intra-articular injection of corticosteroid and conventional TENS are efficient in the treatment of rotator cuff tendinitis. When two treatments are compared, it may be concluded that intra-articular steroid injection was more effective especially in the first weeks regarding pain, ROM and disability. Otherwise, use of TENS allow to patients to increase activity level, improve function and quality of life like that in our study. TENS, as it is cheaper, non-invasive, more easily performed and efficient, may be preferable for the treatment of shoulder pain. Further studies are needed to include these results in the prospective treatment guidelines.

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