Can a Car Accident Cause a Torn Rotator Cuff?
Fact checked by Clayton Hasbrook J.D. | Updated on June 23, 2016
The rotator cuff isn’t a single body part. It’s actually made up of four separate muscle groups that work together to allow a range of motion in your shoulder. When your rotator cuff is injured, you can lose the ability to raise or extend your arm, which makes many basic tasks impossible. If you think you might be suffering from a torn rotator cuff caused by an auto accident, you should contact our experienced car accident lawyers to talk about the possibility of getting compensated. In the meantime, this article will help you understand how rotator cuff injuries are caused and treated, and what to expect on the road to recovery.
Causes and Symptoms of Torn Rotator Cuff Injuries
Torn rotator cuffs are very common in athletes, and are therefore often associated with sporting accidents. However, sports aren’t the only cause of torn rotator cuff injuries. Car accidents are another common culprit, particularly in high-speed collisions. The greater the force exerted in the crash, the greater the risk of a serious shoulder injury.
Like whiplash neck injuries, torn rotator cuffs are most frequently caused by rear-end collisions. As the driver grips the steering wheel, the impact of the striking vehicle drives powerful forces through the back and shoulders, causing damage to tissue beneath the skin. When tendons and muscle fibers are pushed beyond their limits, they can physically tear apart, resulting in a torn rotator cuff injury.
The most obvious symptoms of a torn rotator cuff are shoulder pain, shoulder stiffness, and loss of strength or mobility when attempting to lift or stretch your arm. You may also notice a few related symptoms and effects, which can include:
- A popping sound or sensation in your shoulder.
- Insomnia caused by pain keeping you awake at night.
- Pain that shoots down your arm, away from the source of the injury.
- Shoulder swelling.
- Upper back and/or neck pain.
If you’ve noticed these or any other unusual symptoms after an accident, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor right away. The sooner you see a physician, the sooner you can get on the path to recovery. It is also important to seek prompt medical care from an insurance perspective, as delaying treatment can make it more difficult to get the compensation you deserve. You can read more about this topic in our article on when to see a doctor after a car accident.
Torn Rotator Cuff Treatment and Prognosis
As with any injury, the treatment required to repair a torn rotator cuff depends on the severity of the damage. Only a physician can tell you what sort of treatment and aftercare your torn rotator cuff will need. That being said, some possible treatment methods could include, depending on the size of the tear:
- Corticosteroid Injections — If you’ve ever used hydrocortisone cream, you’re already familiar with corticosteroids, which act as anti-inflammatory drugs. Your doctor may inject a local anesthetic before injecting the corticosteroid drug.
- Physical Therapy — Even a successful surgery can be thwarted by underuse, overuse, or misuse of a healing joint. A physical therapist will guide you through exercises designed to enhance joint strength and keep your recovery on track.
- Torn Rotator Cuff Surgery — Several types of surgeries may be used to correct a torn rotator cuff. Possible procedures include:
- All-Arthroscopic Repair — A camera and surgical tools are inserted through a tiny hole in the affected area. This type of surgery reduces scarring and is less invasive than open repair.
- Mini-Open Repair — A small-scale version of open repair surgery.
- Open Repair — Open repair is open surgery. The surgeon will make an incision several inches long and physically manipulate the muscles and tendons in the injured area.
You should never attempt to treat any injury by yourself, and should always talk to a doctor about how to deal with your injury while you are at home away from medical supervision. However, some potential home remedies to discuss with your doctor include:
- Applying ice packs for short periods of time (about 10 to 20 minutes) several times per day.
- Managing minor, temporary aches and pains with over-the-counter medications like Advil or Tylenol.
- Wearing a sling to take stress off your shoulder. Too much sling use can make your shoulder stiffness worse, so it’s critically important to have medical guidance.
Schedule a Free Consultation
If you were injured in a car accident, you should talk to a car crash injury lawyer about getting compensated. If the crash was caused by the other driver’s negligent or careless actions, such as texting while driving, driving while intoxicated, or falling asleep at the wheel, he or she may be liable for your medical bills and other losses.
To talk about your claim in a free and confidential legal consultation, call Hasbrook & Hasbrook at (405) 698-3040. We’re here to help you exercise your legal rights and fight for accident compensation. We proudly serve communities throughout the Oklahoma City area, including Norman, Moore, Edmond, Shawnee, El Reno, and more.