Heat eases pain of injured rotator cuff tendon

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Deep heat treatment can help
relieve shoulder pain due to inflammation or tearing of rotator
cuff tendon, a new study confirms.

There is currently no agreed-upon treatment for patients
with inflammation or tears in the tendons that make up the
rotator cuff of the shoulder, Dr. Nicola Maffulli of Keele
University School of Medicine in Stoke on Trent, England and
colleagues write.

Hyperthermia, in which the surface of the skin is kept cool
while tissues deep in the affected area are heated with
microwaves to about 110 degrees F, has recently been introduced
as a physical therapy and rehabilitation technique, Maffulli
and her team note in the August issue of the American Journal
of Sports Medicine.

After having success with hyperthermia for treatment of
tendon and muscle injuries in athletes, the researchers tested
the approach in a pilot study of patients with a type of
rotator cuff injury known as supraspinatus tendinopathy. The
supraspinatus muscle is located on the top of the shoulder
blade and is joined to the humerus bone at the top of the arm
by a tendon.

They divided 37 athletes, all of whom had been experiencing
shoulder pain for three to six months, into three groups. One
received hyperthermia treatment three times a week for four
weeks; the second group was given ultrasound therapy on the
same schedule; and the third group performed five minutes of
exercise twice daily for four weeks.

The researchers assessed the study participants’ pain
before treatment, immediately after treatment was completed,
and six weeks after the end of treatment. Only patients in the
hyperthermia group reported a significant reduction in pain
after treatment and during follow-up. Four patients reported
feeling some discomfort due to the high temperature, but
treatment was not halted for this reason and the discomfort was

Maffulli and her colleagues conclude that hyperthermia is
effective in the short-term for treating supraspinatus
tendinopathy and should be tested in larger and more diverse
groups of patients, including non-athletes. The technique
should also be investigated for treating other types of rotator
cuff injury.

SOURCE: The American Journal of Sports Medicine, August

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