The addition of aquatic therapy to rehabilitation following surgical rotator cuff repair: a feasibility study.

Authors: Brady B (1) , Redfern J (1) , MacDougal G (2) , Williams J (2)
(1) Discipline of Physiotherapy, School of Health Sciences, University of Sydney (2) Delmar Private Hospital
Source: Physiother Res Int. 2008 Sep;13(3):153-61
DOI: 10.1002/pri.403 Publication date: 2008 Sep E-Publication date: June 11, 2008 Availability: abstract Copyright: © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Language: English Countries: Not specified Location: Not specified Correspondence address: Brady B :
Senior Outpatient Physiotherapist, Physiotherapy Department, Fairfield Hospital, PO Box 5, Fairfield NSW 1860, Australia
Email :


Article abstract


Rotator cuff tears are frequently encountered in medical outpatient settings and often require surgical repair to achieve desirable functional outcomes. However, the optimal form of post-operative rehabilitation of rotator cuff repairs remains unidentified by the research literature. The aim of this study was to determine the feasibility of implementing and investigating the effect of a combined aquatic and land-based rehabilitation programme in the post-operative rehabilitation of rotator cuff tears.


A cohort of 18 subjects undergoing rotator cuff repair were examined over a treatment period of 12 weeks. Twelve subjects participated in a combined aquatic and land-based programme, while six subjects received a standard land-based protocol. Passive range of motion and the Western Ontario Rotator Cuff Index outcomes were measured pre-operatively and at three, six and 12 weeks, post-operatively. Subjective responses on patient's assurance and confidence in the value of the exercises (questionnaire using an 11-point Visual Analogue Scale (VAS)) were collected at 12 weeks for both groups.


There was a significant improvement in both range of motion and Western Ontario Rotator Cuff scores in all subjects with treatment (p < 0.001). Furthermore, participation in aquatic therapy significantly improved passive flexion range of motion measures at three weeks (mean 46 degrees , 95% CI 17-75, p = 0.005) and six weeks (30 degrees , 95% CI 8-51, p = 0.01). There was no significant difference in the attendance rates (80% in both groups) or patients perceptions of the programmes (100% confidence and assurance in both groups).


The implementation of a combined aquatic and land-based physiotherapy programme following surgical repair of the rotator cuff is feasible and presents a potential viable alternative to conventional land-based exercise with comparable outcomes.

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