In our experience of representing individuals with practically every type of injury, we have learned that few injuries are more common — second to back pain — painful, and debilitating than rotator cuff tears.
The rotator cuff is made up of 4 tendons that cover the top of the humerus. A rotator cuff injury involves a tear to one or more of these tendons. Tears can be full or partial thickness.
Tears can be acute, when a sudden force (blunt or overstrain) is applied to the shoulder, or chronic, which is deterioration over a long period of time. Common symptoms of acute tears include a tearing sensation, sudden pain, and sudden weakness. The symptoms of chronic tearing include gradual progression of shoulder pain and weakness, and difficulty sleeping on the affected side.
Rotator cuff tears are diagnosed clinically, by the orthopedist through examination, and by MRI. The best type of MRI to accurately diagnose the presence of a rotator cuff tear is the MRI arthrogram.
Treatment for rotator cuff injuries includes conservative care and surgery. Conservative care includes rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (Motrin, Aleve, Celebrex) and physical therapy, and sometimes proves valuable with partial tears. Complete tears and partial tears that have not responded well to conservative care, usually will require surgery.
The types of surgery are arthroscopic repair, mini open repair, and open repair. The amount of rehabilitation and recovery time depends on the severity of the injury and the type of surgery performed.
It is never easy returning to heavy manual labor following a rotator cuff injury. For individuals of middle age, with little formal education and less office work experience, a rotator cuff tear can have life altering consequences. Even with the best surgical result, the damaged area is never the same. Rarely will the treating physician approve of heavy, repetitive lifting, especially overhead. While the injured worker may choose, out of necessity, to return to work as a manual laborer, pain, weakness, and limited motion will be a constant companion. Physical therapy and even some degree of on-the-job manual labor can be beneficial.
It is important to receive medical care from doctors experienced in handling rotator cuff injuries. (Our law firm knows who they are.) The need for surgery is determined from diagnostic MRI testing, clinical evaluation, and the patient’s own pain complaints and limitations. Tears, full or partial, do not heal spontaneously. Many individuals can function relatively well with a partial tear. Full thickness tears are another story. They are always painful and disabling. The recovery time from a full thickness tear surgery can be from six months to one year.
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Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.