Rehabilitation of symptomatic atraumatic degenerative rotator cuff tears: A clinical commentary on assessment and management Journal Articles uri icon

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  • STUDY DESIGN: Clinical Commentary. INTRODUCTION: Atraumatic rotator cuff (RC) disease, is one of the most common cause of shoulder pain, which encompasses a continuum from tendinopathy to full thickness cuff tears. Extrinsic, intrinsic and environmental factors have been implicated in the pathophysiology of this disorder, affecting the clinical presentation of symptoms including pain and irritability. Successful rehabilitation of symptomatic atraumatic degenerative rotator cuff (SADRC) tears must address the underlying mechanisms causing dysfunction and correct modifiable factors. PURPOSE OF THE STUDY: The purpose of this paper is to review the shoulder complex anatomy, introduce atraumatic degenerative RC pathology, differentiate between symptomatic and asymptomatic degenerative RC tears, propose an assessment and introduce the Rotator Cuff Protocol 1 (RCP1) designed by the clinical reasoning of one of the lead authors (LW) as a rehabilitation management approach for those clients who present with SADRC tears. METHODS/RESULTS/DISCUSSION: N/A for clinical commentary. CONCLUSIONS: The ability to identify SADRC tears should consider shoulder anatomy, extrinsic, intrinsic and environmental factors, and the consideration for the natural history of atraumatic partial and full thickness tears in the general population. A thorough clinical history and examination, which includes shoulder symptom modification tests, allows the examiner to determine at what phase the patient may start their exercise program. The RCP1 is a program that has been used clinically by many therapists and clients over the years and research is underway to test this protocol in atraumatic rotator cuff disease including SADRC tears. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: 5.


  • Bleichert, Sarah
  • Renaud, Genevieve
  • MacDermid, Joy
  • Watson, Lyn
  • Faber, Ken
  • Lenssen, Ross
  • Saulnier, Marie
  • Phillips, Paul
  • Evans, Tyler
  • Sadi, Jackie

publication date

  • April 2017