One of the most common injuries I see as a Georgia workers’ compensation attorney are shoulder injuries. Given that most employees are constantly using their arms for heavy or repetitive lifting, I am never surprised to get a new shoulder case. Sudden movement of the arm can cause a dislocated shoulder, torn rotator cuff, partial rotator cuff tear, and so on. Shoulder pain is a serious symptom that should be taken seriously because early intervention can reduce the risk of further tearing of the cuff and permanent partial loss of the upper extremity.
The reason why the shoulder is so vulnerable to injury is because the ball of the upper arm is larger than the socket, and often the ligaments, tendons, and muscles which hold your shoulder in place are damaged from repetitive activities or over extension of the arm. This can cause the ball to literally come out of the socket and damage the shoulder. The most common shoulder injuries include strains, sprains, dislocations, separations, tendinitis, bursitis, torn rotator cuffs, frozen shoulder, fractures, and aggravation of preexisting arthritis (which is also compensable under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act). While the tendons can be a source of the pain, the muscles around the socket are usually the root cause of a serious shoulder injury and the most commonly injured rotator cuff muscles are the supraspinatus and infraspinatus muscles.
Doctors will usually treat shoulder injuries with conservative treatment first. Conservative treatment consists of rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) until an exact diagnosis can be given. In some cases, physical therapy and injections into the shoulder may relieve the pain; however, if conservative treatment fails, an MRI of the shoulder should be ordered by the treating physician to examine the joint for significant damage. More aggressive treatment usually includes surgery to repair the shoulder if a rotator cuff tear or a partial rotator cuff tear can be identified on MRI. In rare cases, a surgeon may perform exploratory surgery if an MRI is negative, yet pain persists and the injured worker has a loss of their range of motion.
The road to recovery for serious shoulder injuries can be long and difficult. Injured employees must be patient and follow their doctor’s orders to obtain the best results. However, in many cases the shoulder never returns to pre-injury status and use of the upper extremity is occasionally permanently restricted.
If you have injured your shoulder on the job, tell your supervisor immediately and seek medical attention. Your employer should provide you with all medical treatment and pay you any lost wages in the form of temporary total disability or temporary partial disability benefits if you are unable to work or are placed on light duty restrictions while your shoulder is being treated. If the shoulder does not return to pre-injury baseline status, a permanent partial disability rating will be assigned by the treating physician after you reach maximum medical improvement – meaning medicine has nothing left to offer you in restoring your shoulder to its full capacity.
If you or a loved one has sustained a shoulder injury on the job, and would like to know more about your rights under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act, it is important to contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to ensure you get the best treatment possible and the workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to under Georgia law. Employers and insurance companies have a long and extensive track record of ignoring employees’ reports of shoulder pain and may make it difficult for you to obtain treatment with a board certified orthopedist who specializes in shoulder injuries. Therefore, I recommend you seek the expertise of a Georgia Workers’ Compensation lawyer who knows the doctors in your community and is willing to advocate for your rights under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act.