Evidence for effectiveness of Extracorporal Shock-Wave Therapy (ESWT) to treat calcific and non-calcific rotator cuff tendinosis--a systematic review

Man Ther. 2011 Oct;16(5):419-33. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2011.02.005. Epub 2011 Mar 10.


Extracorporeal shock-wave therapy (ESWT) is suggested as a treatment alternative for calcific and non-calcific rotator cuff tendinosis (RC-tendinosis), which may decrease the need for surgery. In this study we assessed the evidence for effectiveness of ESWT for these disorders. The Cochrane Library, PubMed, Embase, Pedro, and Cinahl were searched for relevant systematic reviews and RCTs. Two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed the methodological quality. Seventeen RCTs (11 calcific, 6 non-calcific) were included. For calcific RC-tendinosis, strong evidence was found for effectiveness in favour of high-ESWT versus low-ESWT in short-term. Moderate evidence was found in favour of high-ESWT versus placebo in short-, mid- and long-term and versus low-ESWT in mid- and long-term. Moreover, high-ESWT was more effective (moderate evidence) with focus on calcific deposit versus focus on tuberculum major in short- and long-term. RSWT was more effective (moderate evidence) than placebo in mid-term. For non-calcific RC-tendinosis, no strong or moderate evidence was found in favour of low-, mid- or high-ESWT versus placebo, each other, or other treatments. This review shows that only high-ESWT is effective for treating calcific RC-tendinosis. No evidence was found for the effectiveness of ESWT to treat non-calcific RC-tendinosis.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Calcinosis / therapy*
  • High-Energy Shock Waves / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Lithotripsy / methods*
  • Rotator Cuff / pathology*
  • Tendinopathy / therapy*