Rotator Cuff Injuries and Workers’ Compensation

The rotator cuff includes the tendons and muscles that keep your shoulder in place. It also allows you to raise your arms and reach above you. Injuries to the rotator cuff can cause loss of movement and severe pain. Call Silverman, McDonald & Friedman in Newark, Seaford or Wilmington today if you suffered any type of shoulder injury, including a torn rotator cuff.

Rotator Cuff Injuries and Workers’ Compensation

According to Johns Hopkins University, millions of people each year seek medical help because of a rotator cuff injury. Workers who use their shoulders often are likely to suffer a rotator cuff injury at some point in their career. Construction workers, carpenters, painters, and stockroom clerks who load inventory onto shelves all have a high risk of developing a rotator cuff injury.

Some rotator cuff injuries may be due to a single workplace accident. Other injuries are due to long-term stresses on the shoulder.

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What are the symptoms of a rotator cuff injury?

John Hopkins University states that, while symptoms may vary, common symptoms include:

  • Recurring pain, especially with certain activities
  • An inability to sleep at night because you can’t rest on the injured shoulder
  • Your arm makes cracking or grating sounds when you move it
  • Weak muscles
  • Not being able to move your arm

Other symptoms include difficulty brushing or combing your hair and pain in your shoulder.

If your shoulder injury doesn’t improve with rest, you should notify your employer so they can provide you with a list of approved doctors who treat shoulder injuries. The more you delay treatment for a rotator cuff injury, the more damage you may do to your shoulder – and the less chance your medical providers will have of repairing your shoulder. If you delay too long, you may suffer a permanent loss of movement in your shoulder.

What are the ways to diagnose a rotator cuff injury?

Your doctor will conduct a verbal exam, where he/she asks about your symptoms, and a physical exam. The physical exam will require you to move your arm in certain directions to test your range of movement. The doctor will physically press certain parts of your shoulder to determine where you are in the most pain. The physician will also test the strength of your shoulder.

He/she will also use imaging tests to determine if you have a rotator cuff injury and the severity of the injury:

  • X-rays. This test “uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.” X-rays normally don’t show the tear itself, but rather eliminate other possible causes of pain, such as bone spurs.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This test “uses a combination of large magnets, radio frequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.”
  • This test, according to the Mayo Clinic, “uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of structures within your body. “

Your doctor may either diagnose your injury as a full rotator cuff tear or a partial rotator cuff tear.

What are the causes of a work-related rotator cuff injury?

Rotator cuff injuries are either due to a specific incident, such as reaching too far for an item on a shelf, wear and tear, or from repetitive stress. Older workers also have a higher risk of developing a rotator cuff injury. Additionally, workers who use their arms to reach, lift, carry, or move objects – especially when the worker reaches above their head – are at risk for a rotator cuff injury.

What are the treatments for rotator cuff injuries?

According to Johns Hopkins University, treatments for shoulder injuries include:

  • Rest
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs)
  • Physical therapy to strengthen and stretch the shoulder and areas around the shoulder
  • Ultrasound therapy
  • Corticosteroid injections, for short-term relief
  • Surgery may be required for severe rotator cuff injuries

According to the Mayo Clinic, possible surgeries to repair a torn rotator cuff include:

  • Arthroscopic tendon repair.Doctors use an arthroscope (a small camera) to “reattach the torn tendon to the bone.”
  • Open tendon repair.This surgery also involves reattaching the tendon to the bone, but the work is done through larger incisions.
  • Tendon transfer.Your doctor may need to use another tendon instead of reattaching a torn tendon.

In severe cases, your surgeon may need to conduct a shoulder replacement repair.

Are there ways to prevent a torn rotator cuff?

There’s no magic remedy. Workers who are at risk for a torn rotator cuff may benefit from physical therapy. You should work with a physical therapist who is trained at strengthening and providing flexibility of the correct muscles in the other parts of your body.

What Delaware workers’ compensation benefits am I entitled to for a torn rotator cuff injury?

Injured employees are entitled to a variety of workers’ comp benefits:

  • Payment for all medical expenses to diagnose, treat, and repair a torn rotator cuff. These expenses include surgeries, doctor visits, treatment with physical and other therapists, medications, and any necessary medical devices.
  • Temporary work loss benefits. Workers are generally entitled to 2/3 of their lost wages while they are working with their doctors to repair or maximize the use of their injured shoulder.
  • Permanent work loss benefits. If the worker’s injuries are permanent, the worker may be entitled to permanent disability benefits based on the severity of the injury. If the worker can return to work, but only for lower pay, then the worker may be entitled to partial permanent loss benefits.

Workers should not be forced to return to work until they have reached the stage of maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI means that additional medical care is not expected to improve the worker’s health. The worker will still be entitled to medical payments if continued treatments are necessary to prevent his/her condition from worsening.

At Silverman, McDonald & Friedman, our Delaware workers’ compensation attorneys work with your doctors to verify the type of injury you have, the severity of the injury, and the type of care you’ll need. We fight employers who try to force you back to work too soon. We have a strong track record of success helping workers obtain all the work loss benefits they deserve. To discuss your workers’ compensation case, call us today at 302.888.2900 or use our contact form to speak with an attorney at our offices in Wilmington, Newark, and Seaford.