Predictors of Pain and Functional Outcomes After the Nonoperative Treatment of Rotator Cuff Tears

Nitin B. Jain, Gregory D. Ayers, Run Fan, John E. Kuhn, Keith Baumgarten, Elizabeth Matzkin, Laurence D. Higgins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: Optimal patient selection is key to the success of nonoperative treatment for rotator cuff tears. Purpose: To assess the predictors of pain and functional outcomes in a longitudinal cohort of patients undergoing nonoperative treatment. Study Design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 2. Methods: A multicenter cohort of patients with rotator cuff tears undergoing nonoperative treatment was recruited from March 2011 to February 2015. Patients completed a detailed health questionnaire, completed standardized shoulder questionnaires including the Shoulder Pain and Disability Index (SPADI), and underwent magnetic resonance imaging. In addition to baseline assessments, patients received follow-up questionnaires at 3, 6, 12, and 18 months. Longitudinal mixed models were used to test predictors of the SPADI score, and interactions with time were assessed. Results: In our cohort of 70 patients, being married as compared with being single/divorced/widowed (P =.02), a shorter duration of symptoms (P =.02), daily shoulder use at work that included light or no manual labor versus moderate or heavy manual labor (P =.04), alcohol use of 1 to 2 times per week or more as compared with 2 to 3 times per month or less (P =.007), and absence of fatty infiltration (P =.0009) were significantly associated with decreased SPADI scores (improved shoulder pain and disability) over time. When interactions with time were assessed, having a college level of education or higher compared with less than a college education showed a differential effect over time, with those with a college level of education or more having lower SPADI scores (P =.004). Partial-thickness tear versus full-thickness tear also had an interaction with follow-up duration, such that those with a partial-thickness tear had lower SPADI scores (P =.0002). Conclusion: Longitudinal predictors of better outcomes of the nonoperative treatment of rotator cuff tears included being married, having at least a college education, shorter duration of symptoms, light or manual labor in daily work, alcohol use of 1 to 2 times per week or more, partial-thickness tear, and absence of fatty infiltration of the rotator cuff. Our results suggest that nonoperative treatment should be performed early for optimal outcomes. These data can be used to select optimal candidates for the nonoperative treatment of rotator cuff tears and to assist with patient education and expectations before treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalOrthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • outcomes
  • physical therapy
  • rehabilitation
  • rotator cuff
  • shoulder pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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