You probably use your shoulders a great deal more than you realize. The shoulder joint is the most movable joint, rotating in each direction to lift, push, pull, and carry all kinds of items to and from surfaces at various levels. It’s not surprising that shoulder injuries are among the most common work-related injuries that occur each year. Both the frequent use and the shoulder’s anatomy make it vulnerable to injury.
As experienced work injury lawyers at a San Diego workers compensation law firm we can tell you that repetitive arm movements, heavy lifting, or lifting/throwing items overhead put you at a greater risk of shoulder injury. The more of these movements you use to perform your work, the higher your risk.
How Does The Shoulder Work? Three bones come together to make up the shoulder joint: The shoulder blade (scapula), upper arm bone (humerus), and the collarbone (clavicle). The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the joint to keep the bones in alignment. A separate structure called the glenoid labrum cushions the joint.
Common Types of On-the-Job Shoulder Injuries
Rotator Cuff Injury – Often, the shoulder injury that occurs on-the-job is to the rotator cuff. Inflamed muscles cause tendinitis, or sometimes the muscles become pinched and trapped, causing tears to the rotator cuff. If your job requires you to over-extend your arm, lift objects overhead, or use the shoulder frequently, you may have a rotator cuff injury. The primary symptom of this type of injury is pain with movement and while still.
This type of shoulder injury is diagnosed with an MRI that shows images of soft tissue. Initial treatment might include rest, pain medication, and possibly physical therapy. If conservative treatment isn’t successful, surgery is the next step. Recovery from rotator cuff surgery takes a minimum of four months, sometimes taking longer. In many cases, the ability to use your shoulder will not return to the same capacity that it was before the injury. Not only does a rotator cuff injury cost a great deal in medical bills and time off from work; it also causes permanent restrictions on your ability to use your shoulders.
Labral Tear Injury – The labrum deepens the shoulder socket to protect it and increase stability. When tears occur, it results in an instant, deep pain. Sometimes the tear causes a clicking or catching when you move the shoulder. The tear may occur to any area of the labrum and may also extend to the biceps tendon attached to it.
Physical therapy is often the initial treatment of choice. If it isn’t successful, you will need surgery to repair the tear. Following surgery, you can expect to spend several months healing before gradually acquiring the ability to do heavier work.
Frozen Shoulder Injury – This type of injury is a condition that occurs following a shoulder injury or shoulder surgery. It occurs when you must keep the affected arm stationary for an extended period. Your doctor may give you steroid injections, prescribe other medications, and/or have you perform range-of-motion exercises. Sometimes manipulation of the shoulder joint through arthroscopic surgery loosens the muscles and tendons so the shoulder joint can move. This surgery requires at least another three to four months of limited use.
Workers’ Compensation Value for a Shoulder Injury
If you have a work-related shoulder injury, contact a workers comp lawyer right away. The importance of the shoulder and the potential loss due to an injury makes it a valuable claim. Often, other injuries occur at the same time as the injury to your shoulder. For example, injury to your arm from throwing items overhead or to your back from lifting heavy objects.
Your attorney will evaluate your case and determine the type(s) of benefits you might apply for. These include lifetime medical awards, temporary total disability, vocational rehabilitation, permanent partial disability, or temporary partial disability.
The benefits you qualify for depend on whether you can prove your shoulder injury is work-related. It also depends on the cost of treatment and how lasting the effects of the injury are. Your workers’ compensation attorney can advise you on the steps to take to get all the benefits you deserve for your injuries.