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Med Sport Sci. 2012;57:90-9. doi: 10.1159/000328910. Epub 2011 Oct 4.

Conservative treatment and rotator cuff tear progression.

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Department of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery, Campus Bio-Medico University, Rome, Italy.


There is no definite consensus on the best management for patients with rotator cuff tears. No randomized controlled studies have compared the outcome of surgical versus conservative treatment. The described successful rate of conservative treatment varies widely, from 33 to 92%. Even though current evidence is not sufficient to allow definitive conclusions on conservative treatment of rotator cuff tears, non-operative management is often recommended in such patients. Prognostic factors seem to be clinical presentation, duration of symptoms and tear size. The best programme for conservative treatment is not defined. Physical therapy consists of stretching and strengthening exercises. The characteristics of exercise programmes are not standardized. In clinical practice, intra-articular injections are commonly used for treatment of shoulder pain. Systemic pharmacotherapy for patients with shoulder pain consists of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Recently, cyclo-oxygenase-2-selective inhibitors have been introduced for management of shoulder pain. To date, few randomized controlled trials are available on conservative management of rotator cuff tears, and therefore further studies are required to clarify its role in such patients.

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