Rotator Cuff

Dr. James - Orthopaedic Surgeon in Singapore

Medically reviewed by Dr. James Tan

What Is a Rotator Cuff?

The rotator cuff is a complex part of your shoulder structure. Your shoulder is a joint where four different muscles join to cover the humerus bone (upper arm bone). The rotator cuff is a set of muscles and tendons that wrap around the shoulder joint. Their job is to securely keep the upper arm bone in the shoulder socket.

The point in your rotator cuff where these four muscles come together is often called your SITS muscle. SITS is an acronym that uses the first letter of the four muscles that come together, including the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis muscles. These muscles come up from the scapula (shoulder blade) and join at the top of your upper arm bone (humerus) to create a cuff around your glenohumeral (GH) joint.

Understanding the collaboration and working between the rotator cuff and the SITS muscle is essential to comprehend the complexity of your shoulder and possible issues. So let's explore the types of injuries, ways to treat them, and more about rotator cuff injuries.

What are the Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tear?

The significant symptoms of the rotator cuff problems include:

  • Difficulty in raising or rotating your arm
  • Shoulder pain, which is more painful at night
  • Struggle to lift the shoulder
  • Cracking or popping sound when trying to move your arm
  • Weakness in the arm muscle

What Causes It to Tear?

There are four major causes of shoulder injuries, often confused with shoulder dislocation. It is essential to check for the major causes to prevent the existing damage from worsening. Below are the four most significant causes of shoulder injuries:

Physically Demanding Jobs

People who work in very physical jobs like home renovations or factory work can get degenerative shoulder wear. This is also common in industries like healthcare or retail work where people are regularly lifting heavy things, making them likely to experience lower back pains also.

Athletes and Sports

Whether you are a serious athlete or just try to get out and play as often as possible, you are at an increased risk of suffering from a sports injury. These are particularly common for basketball players and weightlifters.

Are you looking for a sports injury doctor? Look no further and talk to our orthopaedic doctors here at Ray of Health today!

Impact Injuries

Reaching out with your hands when you are falling is a natural reaction. While this can protect other areas of your body, it leaves you at an increased risk of shoulder injury. Impact injuries can also cause broken ankles or meniscus tears.

Wear and Tear with Age

From age 40 and beyond, your odds of having an age-related shoulder injury progressively increase.

You might want to talk to us regarding shoulder dislocation treatment plans if you suspect there's a possibility of such an injury.

What Are the Types of Rotator Cuff Injuries?

A rotator cuff injury can result in a complete or partial tear of one or more muscles inside your shoulder socket. The damage could be the result of long-term wear and tear, or it could be a sudden injury.

A rotator cuff tear can occur in any of the four muscles that comprise the rotator cuff. The severity of the tear varies greatly. Tendinopathy occurs when there isn't a complete tear. It is one of the most common sources of discomfort. The supraspinatus muscle, which is engaged when you raise your arm away from your body, is usually the most affected by these incomplete tears.

When you get a diagnosis, your tear will be classified into one of the following categories.

  • Partial tear: When your tendon is damaged but not completely severed, you have what is called a partial tear. This is the least severe of all of the potential rotator cuff injuries.
  • Complete tear: If the soft tissue is torn completely, it is referred to as a complete tear.

In addition to classifying the severity of a tear, your doctor will also identify the cause of your injury. This aspect is also important because it impacts the treatment of your rotator cuff injury.

There are many different causes of injuries and countless different circumstances that may lead to the injury. We classify them into one of two categories: acute tears and degenerative tears.

  • Acute tear:  When your injury is caused by sudden trauma, like falling, picking up something too heavy, or taking a blow during sports, it is considered to be an acute tear.
  • Degenerative tear: It is often the case that a tear is caused by long-term wear and wear. Lifestyle is a key consideration here as some jobs and certain sports make you more prone to experiencing rotator cuff tears. Certain conditions like diabetes or high cholesterol can increase your odds of tearing your tendon and certain hereditary factors also increase your likelihood.


If you are experiencing pain in your joints, it could be a sign of cartilage injury. Visit our cartilage injury doctor for a consultation today.

Did You Know...

What A Torn Rotator Cuff is?

The rotator cuff muscle is a group of muscles and tendons that attach the shoulder blade to the upper arm, stabilising and moving the shoulder joint.

A torn rotator cuff happens due to acute injury or chronic wear and tear. Try out this test to see if you have a torn tendon:

Stretch out your arm.

Point your thumb to the floor and start raising your arm

If your shoulder hurts, you may have a torn rotator cuff.

Treating a Rotator Cuff Injury in Singapore

Your shoulder plays an important role in your everyday life. From washing your hair in the morning to reaching for a coffee cup, the smallest part of your day can turn sour when you’re dealing with pain. That is especially true when you are dealing with an injury in your shoulder or possibly a wrist fracture.

Looking to get rotator cuff treatment in Singapore? We are ready to help! The orthopaedic doctor Dr. James Tan at Ray of Health will diagnose your issue and create a customised treatment plan to start your recovery journey. We also offer knee pain treatment and ACL tear treatment.

Why suffer in pain for another day? Reach out to us online, call +65 6235 8781, or chat with us on WhatsApp at +65 8028 4572. You can also talk to us by clicking the button below.


Camden Medical

1 Orchard Boulevard, #09-06

Singapore 248649

Mount Alvernia Hospital

820 Thomson Road

Medical Centre D #05-60

Singapore 574623

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How Do You Know If You Have Torn Your Rotator Cuff?

Wondering if you have a torn rotator cuff? Shoulder injuries can manifest as common symptoms but the following symptoms may point towards a rotator cuff injury.

Shoulder Pain

The top symptom is dull, aching shoulder pain. This pain will typically get worse when you raise or lower your arm.

If you are experiencing more severe shoulder pain, you may have a severe rotator cuff tear or another injury in addition to the tear.

Trouble Sleeping

In many cases, it is not an overwhelming amount of pain that pushes people to see a doctor about a potential tear but rather difficulty sleeping.

When you are trying to get comfortable and fall asleep at night, you may find that shoulder pain is preventing you from getting settled. This is an especially common problem for side sleepers.

Shoulder Weakness

In addition to shoulder pain, a tear may cause your shoulder to feel weak even during simple routine tasks like washing your hair. Often people find the pain to be mild but get frustrated by their reduced ability.

Shoulder Popping

When you have a tear in the rotator cuff, it changes the way that your shoulder’s ball and socket fit together. This change can cause a sound like a pop or a crack, which is a condition called crepitus.

Note: It is important to be aware that this is just a general overview of what you might experience. While these are the most common symptoms, they are not the only possible symptoms. They can also be accompanied by swelling, stiffness, loss of your range of motion, and tenderness. Always consider consulting a healthcare specialist to get diagnosed and treated.

How Is It Diagnosed?

To diagnose a rotator cuff tear, the doctor will start the physical examination to determine the causes of your shoulder problem. The examination includes the movement of your arm into various positions. This will help to evaluate the stretch, pain, and range of movement.

Besides, the physical examination, additional examination, including one of the following, may also be required.

  • X-rays: If your doctor suspects you have some bone spur, arthritis, or other condition affecting your shoulder, then they may suggest an X-ray of your shoulder. While a rotator cuff tear can’t be detected with an X-ray, it is a good way to check for other conditions that also may be causing you discomfort.
  • Ultrasound: It can help take a closer look at the muscles and tendons of your shoulder. Ultrasound can provide a complete view of your shoulder during movement. This will also let you see the variations between your affected and unaffected shoulder. Thus, ultrasound can help to figure out the injuries in your shoulder.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging MRI: An MRI uses magnetic technology and radio waves which create detailed images of the entire shoulder and any problems or injuries inside your shoulder.

How to Treat Rotator Cuff Injuries?

The possible treatment for rotator cuff injuries includes:

  • Take Sufficient Rest
  • Strengthening and Stretching Exercises
  • Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medicines
  • Ultrasound Therapy
  • Surgery

Managing Rotator Cuff Tendonitis Pain

With Dr James

Here are some pain relief solutions for rotator cuff tendonitis pain that you can try at home:

Use hot compress: Heat therapy can help loosen up your shoulder when you feel pain and stiffness.

Apply an ice pack: Using an ice pack on your shoulder for 20 mins for 3-4 times a day may help with swelling and inflammation.

Shoulder Rotator Cuff Exercise

If you're looking for exercises to relieve rotator cuff pain, check out these videos below.

Frequently-Asked Questions About Rotator Cuff Injury in Singapore

Healthcare professionals may test the rotator cuff tears by performing physical exams and imaging tests, including ultrasound and MRI. Moreover, your arm’s strength and range of motion will also be tested as the shoulder pain and the reduced range of motion are the two major warning signs of rotator cuff tear.

If you experience pain when you lift your arms, it could be a sign of rotator cuff injury as well. 

About the Author

Dr. James - Orthopaedic Surgeon in Singapore

Dr James Tan Chung Hui

Dr James Tan is a skilled orthopaedic surgeon in Singapore who has more than 10 years of experience in sports injury surgery and exercise medicine. Apart from partnering with the industry to introduce several treatment techniques, Dr Tan has treated athletes from the Singapore National Teams and professional footballers from the Singapore Premier League and the Young Lions. He is a member of the elite Asian Shoulder and Elbow Group and a founding member of the Singapore Shoulder and Elbow Surgery Society.