The shoulder is an integral part of upper body movement. When you injure one or both in some way, it can put you out of commission in many aspects of your life.
Getting the proper rotator cuff injury treatment is crucial to fending off the continuing degradation of the muscle and the pain associated with movement.
If you are experiencing symptoms of a rotator cuff injury, especially after a car accident, it may help to understand some of the mechanics behind this type of shoulder damage.
The Role of the Rotator Cuff
The mobility of your arms depends mainly on the type of joint that connects at the shoulder. Unlike a hinge joint that only permits motion one way, the shoulder contains a ball and socket connection that allows movement of the upper arm bone in every direction.
The socket of one set of bones holds the ball joint of the other. In the case of the shoulder, the upper arm has the ball and the shoulder houses the socket.
The rotator cuff is the large group of muscles and rotator cuff tendon tissues in the shoulder that hold the ball and socket joint in place.
When these soft tissues become worn down with overuse, age or misuse, or torn by a traumatic event, movement can become painful and hindered, resulting in a loss of mobility.
Common Modes of Rotator Cuff Injury
As you age, body systems become more prone to damage and injury. Soft tissue, especially rotator cuff muscles, becomes brittle as the body stops producing natural lubrication within cartilage. The tissue becomes thinner and more susceptible to damage like rotator cuff tears.
Bone spurs also sometimes develop, causing rotator cuff injury in the affected shoulder.
Some of the most common ways to injure your rotator cuff include:
When you perform the same movement day in and day out for extended time periods, it may hasten a breakdown of the tissues and joints, causing rotator cuff tendonitis.
The rotator cuff is susceptible to repetitive motion damage caused most frequently by:
- Labor-intensive jobs, such as construction
- Years of playing sports, such as tennis
- Intricate hand-focused work, such as factory assembler
It is natural when you fall to put your hand down to stop your body. This reaction is one of the most common ways a traumatic rotator cuff injury occurs. In this modality of damage can lead to a torn rotator cuff.
Car accidents may also leave you with a shoulder injury, even going so far as to dislocate the joint causing arm pain and limiting range of motion. The physics of the crash and the energy transferred through the vehicle into your body may exert enough pressure to result in severe damage to the rotator cuff and other areas of the body.
The tendons of the shoulder do not need movement to become injured. In some instances, a lack of mobility may cause inflammation and eventual tearing in the muscle.
Sleeping on one shoulder on the wrong mattress night after night may cause tendinitis in the rotator cuff. Jobs where you need to keep your shoulder in a fairly immobile position, such as hairstyling, may contribute to the damage to the shoulder.
Signs and Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Injury
The way your shoulder becomes injured may play a large part in how the symptoms of a rotator cuff injury manifest. After a car crash, your entire body may feel sore or bruised, and you may have shoulder pain.
However, when any single area continues to ache or bruises develop that deepen over time, it is a sign that something else is amiss.
A traumatic shoulder injury may prove easy to recognize since the pain and arm weakness may heighten depending on how severe the tear or dislocation is. An inability to move the shoulder in any direction without pain is a sure sign that some area of it has sustained damage.
The symptoms may manifest slower in repetitive shoulder injuries or a degenerative tear. A dull ache is usually the first sign that the rotator cuff has become irritated, inflamed or damaged.
Rotator cuff pain that sharpens when lifting the arms out to the sides and then up reinforces a rotator cuff problem, even a partial tear. If you do not rest the muscle or use common rotator cuff injury treatment options, such as alternating heat and ice, the damage worsens.
X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans aid in rotator cuff tear diagnosis and other shoulder joint and rotator cuff injuries.
How To Treat a Rotator Cuff Injury
When it comes to deciding how to treat a rotator cuff injury, your practitioner may give you a range of options. Most of these will center around the cause and severity of the injury.
Those degenerative or repetitive injuries may improve with rest. Physical therapy is beneficial when it comes to strengthening the shoulder muscles after injury or damage.
It also helps prevent a potential side effect called frozen shoulder syndrome that can onset after a rotator cuff injury. If you do not move the shoulder for fear of pain, the muscles and tendons can harden and prevent the joint from moving.
If your car accident caused a rotator cuff tear or if the muscles have broken down too much over time, you may require surgery like arthroscopic rotator cuff repair. During this procedure, the surgeon may replace the joint entirely and transplant tendons from another body area to help keep it in place.
While this rotator cuff surgery is somewhat invasive, if you stick to the physical therapy regime established by your practitioner, you may return to normal activities within weeks.
Other surgical repair solutions include reverse shoulder replacement surgery.
Get Help With Recovery
When it comes to taking care of your body, the first step is to seek help when you feel pain. This becomes especially true after you experience a traumatic event, such as a car accident.
Rotator cuff injury treatment cannot begin until you report the symptoms of a rotator cuff injury to your practitioner.
Once you receive a diagnosis, our staff can help you understand how to treat a rotator cuff injury in a way that suits both your current condition and the point you need to get back to. We accept no-fault insurance, PIP (personal injury protection), workers’ compensation, and other health insurance plans.