Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

doctor img
Dr Kau Chung Yuan (许医生)


MRCS (Ireland)

MMed (Ortho)

FRCSEd (Ortho)


What is Rotator Cuff Tendinitis?

Rotator cuff tendinitis, also known as rotator cuff tendinopathy or shoulder tendinitis, is a condition characterised by irritation or inflammation of the tendons in the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint, which provides stability and facilitates a wide range of shoulder movements.

This condition primarily affects the tendons, rather than the muscles, leading to pain and discomfort in the shoulder area. It commonly occurs in individuals who engage in repetitive overhead motions in their daily activities or professions, such as athletes, painters, and construction workers.


Rotator cuff tendinitis stems from various factors, predominantly related to overuse and strain of the shoulder tendons. The primary causes are:

  • Repetitive Strain: Activities involving continuous repetitive overhead motions, commonly found in certain sports and occupations, lead to stress on the rotator cuff tendons.
  • Age-related Degeneration: The tendons’ blood supply diminishes with age, making them more prone to wear and tear, a common cause in older adults.
  • Acute Injury: Sudden injuries to the shoulder can lead to tendinitis, especially if followed by excessive use during recovery.
  • Poor Posture: Chronic poor posture, such as prolonged computer use, can result in shoulder imbalances, increasing strain on the tendons.
  • Lack of Muscle Flexibility or Strength: Insufficient shoulder muscle flexibility or strength can disrupt shoulder mechanics, heightening the risk of tendinitis.


The symptoms of rotator cuff tendinitis can vary in intensity but typically include:

  • Shoulder Pain
    Often the first and most common symptom, pain is usually felt in the front of the shoulder and may radiate down the arm. It can be exacerbated by certain movements, especially overhead activities.
  • Swelling and Tenderness
    The affected area may exhibit swelling and tenderness, particularly noticeable upon touch or movement.
  • Reduced Range of Motion
    Individuals may experience a decrease in shoulder mobility, finding it difficult to perform movements like reaching behind or lifting objects.
  • Weakness in the Shoulder
    There might be a noticeable weakness when lifting or rotating the arm, impacting daily activities.
  • Night Pain
    Pain that intensifies during the night or while lying on the affected side is a common symptom, often disturbing sleep.
  • Crepitus
    A cracking or popping sensation in the shoulder during movement can sometimes be felt or heard.


Are Your Symptoms Affecting Your Quality Of Life?

Consult our MOH-accredited orthopaedic specialist for an accurate diagnosis & personalised treatment plan today.


Diagnosing rotator cuff tendinitis involves a combination of clinical evaluation and diagnostic tests:

Medical History and Physical Examination

The initial step often involves a detailed discussion of symptoms, medical history, and a physical examination, focusing on the shoulder. The orthopaedic surgeon may perform specific movements to assess pain, range of motion, and shoulder strength.

Imaging Tests
  • X-rays: While X-rays cannot show soft tissues like tendons and ligaments, they can help rule out other causes of shoulder pain, such as arthritis or bone spurs.
  • Ultrasound: This imaging technique is useful for viewing soft tissues and can help detect inflammation in the rotator cuff tendons.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): MRI provides detailed images of both soft and hard tissues, allowing for a comprehensive evaluation of the rotator cuff.
Response to Treatment

Sometimes, the diagnosis is supported by the patient’s response to initial treatment, such as rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

The majority of rotator cuff tendinitis cases can be effectively managed with non-surgical treatments, focusing on relieving pain and restoring shoulder function:

Rest and Activity Modification

Avoiding activities that exacerbate shoulder pain is crucial. Modifying daily routines to reduce strain on the shoulder can aid significantly in recovery.

Cold Packs and Heat Therapy

Applying cold packs can reduce inflammation and pain, especially after activity. Heat therapy may be used to relax tight muscles around the shoulder.

Physical Therapy

Tailored exercises, designed by a physiotherapist, can strengthen the shoulder muscles, improve flexibility, and restore range of motion.

Pain Relief Medications

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can be used to manage pain and reduce inflammation.

Corticosteroid Injections

In cases of severe pain, corticosteroid injections may be recommended. These injections provide temporary relief from pain and inflammation.

Ultrasound Therapy

This treatment uses sound waves to promote healing and reduce inflammation in the tendons.

Surgical Treatment Options

Surgical intervention for rotator cuff tendinitis is considered when non-surgical treatments fail to provide relief, or in cases of severe tendon damage. The main surgical options include:

  • Arthroscopic Tendon Repair
    A minimally invasive procedure where small incisions are made, and an arthroscope (a small camera) is inserted to guide the repair of the tendon.
  • Open Tendon Repair
    In more severe cases, a traditional open surgical approach may be required to repair the damaged tendon.
  • Tendon Transfer
    If the tendon damage is extensive, a tendon transfer, where a nearby tendon is used to replace the damaged one, may be considered.
  • Shoulder Replacement
    In cases where rotator cuff tendinitis is accompanied by severe arthritis, a partial or total shoulder replacement might be necessary.

Dr. Kau Chung Yuan

MBBS (S’pore)

MRCS (Ireland)

MMed (Ortho)

FRCSEd (Ortho)

Dr Kau (许医生) is a Fellowship trained Orthopaedic Surgeon with a subspecialty interest in Hip and Knee surgery and has been in practice for more than 15 years.

He is experienced in trauma and fracture management, sports injuries, and joint replacement surgery.

  • Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh, Orthopaedics (FRCS, Edin) 2014
  • Master of Medicine (Orthopaedics), Singapore (MMed) 2013
  • Member of the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (MRCS, Ire) 2009
  • Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS, Singapore) 2004

Prevention Measures

Preventing rotator cuff tendinitis involves measures aimed at reducing the strain on the shoulder tendons. Key prevention strategies include:

  • Regular Exercise: Strengthening and stretching exercises for the shoulder can improve flexibility and stability, reducing the risk of tendon irritation.
  • Proper Technique in Activities: Using the correct technique in sports and occupational activities, especially those involving overhead motions, can minimise undue stress on the shoulder.
  • Ergonomic Adjustments: Making ergonomic changes to the workplace, particularly for desk-bound professionals, can help in maintaining a posture that reduces shoulder strain.
  • Taking Breaks: Regular breaks during activities that involve repetitive shoulder movements can prevent overuse.
  • Warm-up and Cool-down Routines: Incorporating warm-up exercises before and cool-down stretches after physical activity can prepare the muscles and tendons for the stress of exercise.
  • Maintaining a Healthy Weight: Excess body weight can put additional stress on the shoulder joints and tendons.

Partnered Programs & Insurance Plans

For Singaporeans, Singapore Permanent Residents and Foreigners.
Please speak to our friendly clinic staff about using your insurance plans.

Patient Feedback

Ethan Chan
Dr. Kau is an exemplary doctor who is experienced in his field and is very patient with his patients. He walked me through the details of my knee condition and addressed all my concerns. Thanks to Dr. Kau, I had a better understanding of my ACL and MCL injury and the various treatment options available. His advice and treatment have been very valuable to me.
Ming Lee Chua
Dr Kau was very careful and explained clearly the surgery procedures. After surgery, the care while I was in hospital was closely monitored and he even came during weekends! The hip so far has recovered and healed. His ‘predictions’ of when what can happen are so accurate. Trust him.
Teo Pek Suan Diana
I had a very successful total hip replacement done by Dr Kau 4 years ago. 4 months after the operation I was back walking, cycling and swimming. The beautiful job gave me much confidence Dr Kau is most professional and has such great doctor patient communication.

Send Us An Enquiry

If you have any enquiry, please do get in touch. Leave us a message and we will get back to you shortly.

    Full Name*

    Email Address*

    Phone Number*

    Your Message*

    For Faster Response, WhatsApp Us

    +65‎ 8757‎ 9903

    Visit Us Today

    Mount Elizabeth Novena
    Specialist Centre
    Mount Alvernia
    Farrer Park
    38 Irrawaddy Road,
    Singapore 329563
    1, #02-01 Farrer Park Station Rd,
    Connexion, Singapore 217562

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    Can rotator cuff tendinitis heal on its own?

    Rotator cuff tendinitis can often heal on its own if given adequate rest and proper care. However, this is contingent on the severity of the condition and adherence to recommended rest and treatment protocols.

    Recovery timelines can vary widely, typically ranging from a few weeks to several months, depending on individual health factors, the extent of tendon involvement, and lifestyle adjustments made to facilitate healing.

    How long does it take to recover from rotator cuff tendinitis?

    Mild cases may resolve within a few weeks, while more severe or chronic conditions could take several months to fully recover. Adherence to a structured physical therapy program, proper rest, and avoidance of aggravating activities are crucial for recovery.

    Can rotator cuff tendinitis lead to a rotator cuff tear?

    Untreated rotator cuff tendinitis can escalate to a rotator cuff tear, particularly if the shoulder continues to be exposed to the strain or stress that initially caused the tendinitis. Continuous overuse or repetitive strain can lead to the weakening and degeneration of the rotator cuff tendons.

    This degenerative process increases the likelihood of a tendon tear, especially in older individuals or those engaged in high-impact or repetitive overhead activities. Therefore, timely and effective treatment of tendinitis is crucial to prevent its progression to a more serious rotator cuff tear.

    Can rotator cuff tendinitis recur?

    Rotator cuff tendinitis can recur, particularly if the underlying causes, such as repetitive overhead activities, poor posture, or inadequate shoulder mechanics, are not adequately addressed and corrected. Recurrence can also occur if the initial episode is not fully healed before resuming regular activities.

    Implementing preventative strategies, such as regular shoulder strengthening and flexibility exercises, proper ergonomic adjustments during work or activities, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, can reduce the risk of recurrence. Being mindful of early signs and seeking prompt treatment can help in managing recurrent episodes effectively.