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Physiotherapists nearly always prescribe exercise for rotator cuff‐related shoulder pain; but why? A cross‐sectional international survey of physiotherapists

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-03-15, 15:56 authored by Jared K. Powell, Ben Schram, Jeremy Lewis, Wayne Hing

Background and Aims: This cross‐sectional international survey explored the beliefs of physiotherapists regarding the possible mechanisms of benefit of exercise for rotator cuff‐related shoulder pain (RCRSP). Clinical practice guidelines recommend physiotherapists use exercise as a primary treatment to help people with RCRSP, but the explanations provided to patients by physiotherapists regarding its mechanism of effect is unknown.

Materials and Methods: Registered physiotherapists were surveyed about ‘how and why’ they believe exercise provides a clinical benefit for people with RCRSP. Information was also gathered about commonly used exercise types and preferred diagnostic labels. The survey was designed and reported in concordance with Consensus‐Based Checklist for Reporting of Survey Studies guidelines

Results: Four hundred and eighty physiotherapists from forty‐nine countries completed the survey. Psychosocial and biomedical mechanisms of exercise were evenly selected by participants. Improving muscle strength, muscle endurance, pain self‐efficacy and reducing kinesiophobia, and fear avoidance beliefs were the most common individual mechanisms thought to underpin exercise therapy for RCRSP. Rotator cuff‐related shoulder pain was the most commonly used diagnostic label.

Discussion and Conclusion: Physiotherapists hold beliefs regarding exercise mechanisms that is largely concordant with the current evidence base, which is commendable. Future research should consider the patients perspective and consider testing commonly selected mechanisms of exercise, such as shoulder muscle strength, pain self‐efficacy and kinesiophobia as possible mediators of recovery.



Musculoskeletal Care, 21( 1), pp. 253– 263


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