The group of muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint is called the rotator cuff. It provides you with a wide range of motion in which to use your arm for countless daily activities like lifting objects, reaching overhead, driving, swimming, and playing tennis, golf, or other sports.
Tendonitis or bursitis can occur in the rotator cuff as a result of strain or overuse. A rotator cuff injury can also result from either a degenerative condition or traumatic impact to the shoulder, which often occurs in certain types of car accidents:
- T-bone crashes. One vehicle hits another in the side at a 90-degree angle. Because the occupants have only a car door to shield them from impact, their shoulders are especially vulnerable to rotator cuff injury.
- Rear-end crashes. The driver in front often sees the rear car in the rearview mirror and anticipates the rear-end crash by stiffening and bracing the shoulders. In this tense state, the shoulders take the brunt of the impact, and a rotator cuff tear can result.
Rotator Cuff Injury Symptoms and Diagnosis
Symptoms of a tear in your rotator cuff include:
- Weakness in your shoulder
- A reduced range of arm/shoulder motion
- Inflammation and extreme pain, especially when you try to raise your arm or swing it horizontally
- Inability to sleep when you’re lying on the injured shoulder
If you suffer any of these symptoms after a vehicle accident, you should seek medical attention right away. A doctor can examine your shoulder and perform diagnostic tests to determine whether you’ve injured your rotator cuff:
- Ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which pinpoints damage to tendons and soft tissues of the shoulder
- X-rays to detect bone spurs that can cause inflammation, aggravate your damaged shoulder tendons, and intensify your pain
Early diagnosis leads to a faster recovery than you might have if you ignore your injury and further aggravate it before getting treatment. A doctor’s exam right after a car accident also documents your injuries and proves you suffered them in the crash. This information and your medical history are crucial to the claim you’ll file with your own insurance company for damages:
- Property damage
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
Treatment of Rotator Cuff Injuries
The size, location, and depth of the tear to your rotator cuff determine the type and extent of treatment you’ll need. Minor tears might heal with a program of:
- Physical therapy
- Medication to reduce inflammation
- Resting your injured shoulder
- Cortisone injections for pain
More serious tears or small ones that don’t improve might require arthroscopic surgery, which involves:
- Making an incision for a micro-camera to be placed inside the shoulder joint
- Observing damage to the rotator cuff
- Using micro-surgical instruments to repair damaged tendons with sutures, anchors, or screws
If successful, this procedure should reduce your pain and restore a more normal range of motion to your arm and shoulder. In some cases, though, further surgery is necessary to replace damaged tendons or even the entire shoulder joint.
Micro-surgical procedures and joint replacement are extremely expensive and can lead to a very costly insurance claim. Your insurer might be slow or resistant to authorize such procedures and could try to dispute your claim in order to save money. If this happens, you’ll need not only a surgeon to repair your rotator cuff but also a car accident attorney to help you seek fair compensation for all your damages.
The Role of Your Lawyer
If your insurance company becomes adversarial and uncooperative about accepting your claim, an experienced car accident attorney who knows all the insurer’s strategies can help you seek fair compensation while you focus on your recovery. Your lawyer can:
- Organize and present your medical evidence to prove the seriousness of the injuries you’ve sustained
- Call in expert witnesses to strengthen your case
- Determine your long-term care needs and future medical expenses
- Negotiate with the insurer to get you fair compensation
- File a personal injury suit and fight for you in court if necessary
Have You Suffered a Rotator Cuff Injury in a Twin Cities Vehicle Accident?
Our car accident doctor can relieve some of your shoulder pain with natural healing techniques. For whatever medical needs fall outside our scope, our free referral service will find a local physician to treat you. We’ll also locate an experienced car accident lawyer to demand fair compensation for your damages. Contact us online or call 763-251-PAIN for a free consultation. Just one call puts you two steps closer to justice.