Background: Although the prevalence of full-thickness rotator cuff tears increases with age, many patients are asymptomatic and may not require surgical repair. The factors associated with pain and loss of function in patients with rotator cuff tears are not well defined.
Purpose: To determine which factors correlate with pain and loss of function in patients with symptomatic, atraumatic full- thickness rotator cuff tears who are enrolled in a structured physical therapy program.
Study Design: Cross-sectional study; Level of evidence, 3.
Methods: A multicenter group enrolled patients with symptomatic, atraumatic rotator cuff tears in a prospective, nonrandomized cohort study evaluating the effects of a structured physical therapy program. Time-zero patient data were reviewed to test which factors correlated with Western Ontario Rotator Cuff (WORC) index and American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (ASES) scores.
Results: A total of 389 patients were enrolled. Mean ASES score was 53.9; mean WORC score was 46.9. The following variables were associated with higher WORC and ASES scores: female sex (P = .001), education level (higher education, higher score; P \ .001), active abduction (degrees; P = .021), and strength in forward elevation (P = .002) and abduction (P = .007). The following variables were associated with lower WORC and ASES scores: male sex (P = .001), atrophy of the supraspinatus (P = .04) and infraspinatus (P = .003), and presence of scapulothoracic dyskinesia (P \ .001). Tear size was not a significant predictor (WORC) unless comparing isolated supraspinatus tears to supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and subscapularis tears (P = .004). Age, tear retraction, duration of symptoms, and humeral head migration were not statistically significant.
Conclusion: Nonsurgically modifiable factors, such as scapulothoracic dyskinesia, active abduction, and strength in forward elevation and abduction, were identified that could be addressed nonoperatively with therapy. Therefore, physical therapy for pa- tients with symptomatic rotator cuff tears should target these modifiable factors associated with pain and loss of function.