If you’ve suffered a shoulder injury in a car accident, you know the extreme pain that can result. Damage to any of the three bones that make up the shoulder — the upper arm bone, the shoulder blade and the collarbone — or to the socket in the shoulder blade can cause permanent discomfort and disability.
Certain injuries may not manifest immediately after an accident, and some require costly surgeries and ongoing medical treatment. Following an injury in a vehicle crash, it is vital that you work with an experienced personal injury lawyer to protect your rights and recover compensation.
What are some of the most common types of shoulder injuries caused by car accidents, and what should you do if you have suffered an injury?
Common Shoulder Injuries from Car Accidents
Pain in your shoulders or neck after a vehicle accident can indicate a case of whiplash, which can include several different types of injuries. Individuals who suffer whiplash may feel the effects immediately, or pain sensations may be delayed for several days.
Shoulder and neck pain also can result from a herniated disc or other spinal injury. A herniated disc can pinch one or more nerves, causing permanent nerve damage, pain and disability. In addition, acute trauma from car accidents can cause dislocated shoulders, broken collarbones and other fractures.
Torn Rotator Cuff Injuries
A torn rotator cuff is one of the most common injuries resulting from car accidents, and it can cause some of the most serious consequences. Ongoing weakness in the shoulder from a rotator cuff injury can result in ongoing difficulty with daily tasks, including dressing and bathing.
What Causes a Rotator Cuff Injury?
The rotator cuff includes the muscles and tendons that join the upper arm with the shoulder socket. An injury to this area of the body often results in a dull ache in the shoulder and may become worse when a victim sleeps on the injured side.
Tears can be partial or complete; in a partial tear, the tendon is damaged but not severed. In a complete tear, the tendon becomes separated from the bone, causing a hole to form in the tendon.
In young adults, most rotator cuff tears result from traumatic injuries, such as car accidents. Sudden tears often occur in conjunction with other shoulder injuries.
Symptoms of Torn Rotator Cuff
If you have been in a car accident, you should see a doctor as soon as possible if you experience symptoms such as a dull ache in your shoulder, pain during sleep if you lie on one side, arm weakness, and problems reaching behind your back. You may have suffered a serious shoulder injury, such as a rotator cuff tear.
Any sudden loss of motion after an accident also is reason to visit a doctor immediately, and lasting pain or discomfort may require treatment by a shoulder specialist.
Failing to get proper medical attention after a shoulder injury suffered in a car accident can result in permanent weakness, stiffness and progressive deterioration in and around the shoulder joint. Rest may be required for recovery, but immobilization over a long period can permanently damage the shoulder’s connective tissue.
Diagnosing Shoulder Injuries Following a Car Accident
If you believe you have suffered a shoulder injury in a car accident, you should seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Your doctor will examine your shoulder — including looking for tender areas and testing range of motion and strength — and determine what additional diagnostic tools to use.
The doctor also will look for any other problems in the shoulder joint and may examine your neck to rule out a herniated disc, pinched nerve, arthritis and other conditions. In addition, tests such as X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging may be used to examine the soft tissues around and within the shoulder’s rotator cuff. X-rays typically are done first, with MRIs used to locate any tears in the tendons.
Some patients recover from shoulder injuries with physical therapy — including exercises to build strength and flexibility — while others require ongoing therapy or surgical repair, including joint replacements.
Work with an Attorney for Shoulder Injury Compensation Payouts
Shoulder pain after a car accident can be a sign of a potentially serious injury. Even if some time has passed since your accident, you should not ignore pain or other symptoms. In addition to getting an examination from a medical professional, it is important to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer to evaluate your legal options.