Shoulder pain remains the 3rd most common reason, behind the common cold and low back pain, patients seek out the care of their primary care providers. Impingement and rotator cuff tendon pain are the most common diagnoses associated with these symptoms. The vast majority of rotator cuff injuries do not require surgical intervention and patients are faced with conservative treatments including medication, Physical Therapy, and a wait and see approach. Unfortunately the natural history of shoulder pain is recurrent in nature and over 50% of all new shoulder patients experience continued symptoms at 6 months. A recent research article compared the effectiveness of Physical Therapy to a wait and see approach for patients with shoulder pain.
Dickinson and colleagues completed an analysis of healthcare outcomes in a multi centered cohort of patients with rotator cuff tears (J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2019). Enrolled patients underwent clinical and demographic questionnaires at 3, 6, 12, and 18 months to determine their perceived recovery from either Physical Therapy or a wait and see or control condition. Authors reported patients who received Physical Therapy within the first 3 months demonstrated significantly better improvements in pain and function compared to those not receiving Physical Therapy. Authors reported similar scores between groups at long term follow ups demonstrating Physical Therapy had the greatest impact accelerating a patient’s recovery up to the 3 month time point.