Background: In a given year, more than four million people will seek out medical help for shoulder pain. Of those, more than a quarter million will receive surgical intervention for rotator cuff tears. The incidence of rotator cuff injury presents at 28% in patients over 60, 50% in those over 70, and 80% in those over 80. For most people over the age of 60, surgical repair does show good improvement in function with about 20% showing failure in the surgical repair.

Purpose: The focus of this project is to critically examine the available literature surrounding treatment options available for older adults with non-traumatic rotator cuff tear, taking into account the changes associated with advancing age as related to tissue factors and long-term outcomes. Analysis will be directed to answer the PICO question: In older adults, what are the outcomes of surgical intervention for non-traumatic rotator cuff tears compared to non-surgical intervention?

Case Description: Mrs. J was an administration worker who was seen at an outpatient physical therapy facility for a symptomatic shoulder after a diagnosis of a partial tear to her rotator cuff. She had undergone a previous repair for a full thickness tear of the same shoulder.

Discussion: In the review and analysis of current evidence on this topic, several factors are presented to indicate the appropriateness for surgery and the benefits of non-surgical methods for selected individuals. Younger, symptomatic individuals with smaller tears, and older individuals with full thickness tears show better long-term outcomes when treated with conservative interventions.



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)

Level of Degree


First Advisor

Tiffany Enache, PT, DPT


Non-traumatic, Rotator cuff tear, Conservative Treatment, Non-surgical, Exercise Therapy