Rotator Cuff Injury Specialist
Dr Chiam Tut Fu
MSS (Sports Medicine) (USA)
MMed (OM) (Singapore)
Brief Overview of Rotator Cuff Injuries
Rotator cuff injuries refer to a spectrum of conditions affecting the tendons and muscles that stabilise the shoulder joint. These can range from mild inflammation to complete tears, significantly impacting shoulder function and causing pain.
Causes of Rotator Cuff Injuries
Rotator cuff injuries typically result from two primary conditions: wear and tear over time, and acute injuries. Wear and tear, or degenerative changes, occur gradually due to ageing or repetitive overhead activities, such as lifting or throwing. Acute injuries, on the other hand, result from sudden force or trauma to the shoulder, often seen in sports or accidents.
Types of Rotator Cuff Injuries
Inflammation of the tendons in the rotator cuff. It commonly occurs in individuals who perform repetitive overhead activities, such as athletes or manual labourers.
Involves inflammation of the bursa, a small fluid-filled sac that reduces friction between the rotator cuff tendons and the shoulder blade. Overuse or injury can lead to bursitis.
Partial and Full-thickness tears
A partial tear is when the tendon is damaged but not completely severed, while a full-thickness or complete tear fully separates the tendon from the bone. These tears can result from a single traumatic event or gradual wear and tear.
Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Injuries
The symptoms of rotator cuff injuries can vary depending on the severity and type of injury. Common symptoms include:
- Pain at rest and at night, particularly when lying on the affected shoulder
- Pain when lifting and lowering the arm
- Weakness when lifting or rotating the arm
- A crackling sensation when moving the shoulder in certain positions
The differences in symptoms based on the type of injury are often subtle and may overlap.
Diagnosis of Rotator Cuff Injuries
The diagnosis of rotator cuff injuries typically involves a combination of the following:
The doctor will ask about symptoms, activities that may have caused the injury, and any previous shoulder problems.
This includes testing the range of motion, strength, and stability of the shoulder.
These may include X-rays, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to visualise the structures of the shoulder and identify any damage.
Minimally Invasive Treatments We Use To Treat
Rotator Cuff Injuries
An injection that alleviates pain and inflammation associated with musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis, bursitis, tendinitis and joint pain.
Targeted pain relief in the administered area and reduced inflammation.
Little to no recovery time. Patients may resume their normal activities promptly.
Works well in chronically injured tissues which may have very slow recovery
Anti-inflammatory and regenerative effects
Little or no downtime and patients can walk out after the 30 min procedure
Treats flare-ups of OA pain and swelling with fluid buildup in the knee
Reduces inflammation in the joint
Can quickly relieve these symptoms, usually within 1-3 days
Uses low-level light to stimulate healing. Does not cause your tissues to heat up. LLLT is used to treat various musculoskeletal conditions, reduce inflammation, and promote wound healing.
Painless, Quick, Effective, and No downtime. Patients can return to their normal activities immediately after an LLLT session.
Dr Chiam Tut Fu
MSS (Sports Medicine) (USA)
MMed (OM) (Singapore)
Dr Chiam is a MOH accredited Specialist in Sports Medicine and has practised medicine for over 30 years.
Dr Chiam Tut Fu obtained his MBBS from National University of Singapore in 1990. He went on to obtain his Masters in Sports Science (Sports Medicine) from the United States Sports Academy, graduating as the year’s outstanding student, and Masters of Medicine (Occupational Medicine) from the National University of Singapore.
- Non-surgical treatment of sports injuries
- Non-surgical treatment of degenerative conditions
- Nutraceuticals for healthy ageing and exercise performance
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Frequently Asked Questions
Can rotator cuff injuries heal on their own?
Minor rotator cuff injuries often heal on their own with rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain relievers. More severe injuries, such as large tears, usually require medical treatment.
What is the recovery time for rotator cuff injuries?
Recovery time varies depending on the severity of the injury and the treatment method. Minor injuries may heal in a few weeks, while surgical repair of a torn rotator cuff can take several months to fully recover.
Can you still move your arm with a torn rotator cuff?
Yes, but it may be painful and weak. The degree of movement depends on the severity of the tear.
How painful is a torn rotator cuff?
Pain levels can vary. Some people experience severe pain, while others have more subtle symptoms like arm weakness. Pain may be worse at night and when lifting objects.
What happens if a torn rotator cuff is not repaired?
If left untreated, a torn rotator cuff can lead to permanent stiffness or weakness and may result in progressive degeneration of the shoulder joint.
Can a rotator cuff tear worsen over time?
Yes, without treatment, the tear can extend, and the muscles can atrophy and become weaker, leading to increased pain and decreased function.
What exercises should be avoided with a rotator cuff injury?
Exercises that involve lifting heavy weights or repetitive overhead activities (like throwing or swinging) should be avoided to prevent further damage.
Can physical therapy make a rotator cuff tear worse?
If not done correctly, certain exercises could potentially worsen the injury. Work with a qualified physical therapist who can tailor the exercise program to your specific condition.
How do you sleep with a rotator cuff injury?
It’s often best to avoid sleeping on the side of the injured shoulder. Using a pillow to support the arm or sleeping in a reclined position can help reduce pain.
Can you fully recover from a rotator cuff injury?
Yes, with proper treatment and rehabilitation, most people can regain near-normal strength and function in their shoulder. Do note that the outcome depends on the size of the tear, the condition of the muscles and tendons, and the patient’s participation in rehabilitation activities.