Rotator cuff injuries are some of the most common injuries I have seen in my Pennsylvania Workers Compensation practice. That is not all that surprising given the growth in the warehousing and distribution centers in Central Pennsylvania.
The rotator cuff is a series of muscles and tendons in the shoulder. They are critical for use of and movement of the shoulder and hold the ball joint in the socket. These muscles are critical to shoulder function and motion. That is why an injury to the rotator cuff muscle can be quite disabling, limiting, and painful. Construction workers, truck terminal dock workers, warehouse laborers, order pickers, assembly line workers, nursing home care workers are at higher risk due to heavy lifting and highly repetitive work functions.
What Can Cause a Rotator Cuff Work Injury?
The two most common causes of rotator cuff injuries are repetitive strain and heavy lifting. Lifting heavy objects, lifting patients in nursing homes, lifting heavy objects overhead, and lifting heavy objects incorrectly are all ways that can lead to rotator cuff injuries. For warehousing and assembly type job functions, we see frequent rotator cuff injures due to performing the same tasks over and over and over again. In other words, the rotator cuff wears and frays from repetitive behavior. It can put tremendous strain on the rotator cuff tendons and the entire shoulder joint.
Strains come in varying degrees, from small partial thick tears to massive full thick tears. Medical treatment for these tears would depend on the extent of the tear, the symptoms experienced by the injured worker, and the age of the injured worker. Another common work injury that occurs are sudden traumatic injuries, such as slipping and falling or being struck by a heavy object. Slip and falls frequently occur in the winter months or in warehouse type facilities that have cardboard, paper, and other packing items on the warehouse floor. They usually result when an arm is extended to break a fall or when the injured worker lands directly on the shoulder.
Frequent Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Injury
The symptoms of a rotator cuff injury vary by individual. We all feel pain differently. Some people actually believe they have a neck injury because the symptoms from their rotator cuff injury radiate into the neck. Some people have pain directly in the shoulder. Generally, these are some of the common symptoms injured workers may experience with a rotator cuff injury:
- Pain in the shoulder joint and in the front and underneath of the shoulder
- Weakness of the injured arm
- Pain with reaching over head or behind your back
- Difficulty sleeping at night due to inability to lay on the shoulder
- Painful clicking and grinding sounds with movement
- Pain radiating from the shoulder into the neck
- Swelling in the shoulder
- General decease in range of motion all over the shoulder
A rotator cuff injury can be annoying for a period of time to completely disabling. Most rotator cuff injuries can be diagnosed with certain tests during a physical examination and can be confirmed by an MRI scan. Should you be diagnosed with a rotator cuff injury, treatment will depend on the extent of the injury to the tendon.
Treatment for a Rotator Cuff injury
Treatment for a rotator cuff injury will be determined by your doctor. Treatment can depend on extent of injury, intensity of symptoms, age of the injured worker, and appearance on diagnostic scans.
Initially, your doctor will likely attempt conservative treatment modalities. These treatments may include work restrictions limiting your ability to use the shoulder, ice application, rest, and pain and anti-inflammatory medication. Your doctor may also prescribe home exercise or formal physical therapy. Additionally, your doctor may attempt certain injections to calm the symptoms.
With more severe cases, the injured worker may require surgery to repair the rotator cuff. Even more severe, depending on the extent of the tear, the condition of the shoulder joint, and age of the injured worker, the last resort option may be a shoulder replacement.
So what do I do if I injured my shoulder at work?
Simple. First, report the injury to your employer. Second, seek immediate medical treatment. Third, call Mooney Law for a FREE CONSULTATION. We can help guide you through the work injury process so that no mistakes are made. We only recover a fee if we recover for YOU! Call Mooney Law today at 833-MOONEYLAW or at 717-200-HELP to speak with me about your work injury.