Electromyographic Evaluation of Early-Stage Shoulder Rehabilitation Exercises Following Rotator Cuff Repair

Peter K. Edwards, Patrick Wai Hang Kwong, Timothy Ackland, Allan Wang, Cyril J. Donnelly, Jay R. Ebert

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Background Electromyography (EMG) is frequently used as a guide for exercise rehabilitation progression following rotator cuff repair. Knowledge of EMG activity during passive and active-assisted exercises may help guide clinicians when considering exercise prescription in the early post-operative period. Purpose The purpose of this study was to investigate EMG activity of the rotator cuff and deltoid musculature during passive and active-assisted shoulder range of motion (ROM) exercises commonly performed in post-operative rehabilitation. Study Design Descriptive cohort laboratory study using healthy subjects. Methods In sixteen active healthy volunteers, surface and fine-wire EMG activity was measured in the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and anterior, middle and posterior deltoid muscles during eight common ROM exercises. Mean %MVIC values and 95% confidence intervals were used to rank exercises from the least to the most amount of muscular activity generated during the exercises. Results Standard pendulum exercises generated low levels of EMG activity in the supraspinatus and infraspinatus (≤15% MVIC), while active-assisted table slides, and the upright wall slide generated low levels of EMG activity in only the supraspinatus. No exercises were found to generate low levels of muscular activation (≤15% MVIC) in the subscapularis. Conclusion This study found no clear distinctions between the EMG activity of the supraspinatus or the infraspinatus occurring during common passive and active-assisted ROM exercises. Subdividing ROM exercises based on muscle activity, may not be necessary to guide progression of exercises prior to commencing active motion after rotator cuff repair. Level of Evidence Level 3b.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1459-1469
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Sports Physical Therapy
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Electromyography
  • Range of motion
  • Rehabilitation
  • Rotator cuff

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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