The Efficacy of Therapeutic Ultrasound for Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Phys Ther Sport. 2015 Aug;16(3):276-84. doi: 10.1016/j.ptsp.2014.09.004. Epub 2014 Sep 23.


A systematic review and meta-analysis on the efficacy of therapeutic ultrasound (US) in adults suffering from rotator cuff tendinopathy. A literature search was conducted in four databases for randomized controlled trials (RCT) published until 12/2013, comparing the efficacy of US to any other interventions in adults suffering from rotator cuff tendinopathy. The Cochrane Risk of Bias tool was used to evaluate the risk of bias of included studies. Data were summarized qualitatively or quantitatively. Eleven RCTs with a low mean methodological score (50.0% ± 15.6%) were included. Therapeutic US did not provide greater benefits than a placebo intervention or advice in terms of pain reduction and functional improvement. When provided in conjunction with exercise, US therapy is not superior to exercise alone in terms of pain reduction and functional improvement (pooled mean difference of the Constant-Murley score: -0.26 with 95% confidence interval of -3.84 to 3.32). Laser therapy was found superior to therapeutic US in terms of pain reduction. Based on low to moderate level evidence, therapeutic US does not provide any benefit compared to a placebo or advice, to laser therapy or when combined to exercise. More methodologically sound studies on the efficacy of therapeutic US are warranted.

Keywords: Rotator cuff; Shoulder impingement syndrome; Tendinopathy; Ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • High-Energy Shock Waves / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Rotator Cuff*
  • Shoulder Pain / etiology
  • Shoulder Pain / therapy*
  • Tendinopathy / complications
  • Tendinopathy / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome