Most people are familiar with rotator cuff tears and likely know someone who’s torn their rotator cuff playing tennis, hitting a punching bag or lifting weights. It’s an extremely painful and debilitating tear that may require surgery to properly repair. The rotator “cuff” is actually made up of four muscles at the top of the shoulder that allow people to lift and rotate their arms, among other movements.
A rotator cuff tear typically occurs in one traumatic event, like a shoulder dislocation. However, another painful and debilitating condition – rotator cuff tendinitis – more often occurs due to repetitive motions over time.
How does the condition occur?
Rotator cuff tendinitis is an inflammation of these muscles that occurs when repeatedly rub against the bone. People whose work involves repetitive overhead movements are susceptible to it. This can include any job that involves reaching upward, such as cleaning, painting, washing cars or working on certain assembly line tasks.
While rotator cuff tendonitis can sneak up on a person, unlike a tear, it can be extremely painful and debilitating. The pain can keep people from getting a good night’s sleep – especially if they roll over on the affected shoulder. Continuing to perform these necessary work tasks, in addition to regular everyday movements, like reaching behind you to pick up something or carrying a heavy bag over your shoulder, can exacerbate it.
How is it diagnosed and treated?
If a doctor suspects rotator cuff tendonitis, the best way to confirm the condition is with an MRI. If that’s what it is, they’ll recommend a treatment regimen. If it’s caught early enough and isn’t too serious, non-surgical treatments can help. However, a person diagnosed with this condition likely will be advised not to continue doing their job, at least for a time, until it can heal.
How long this takes depends on a number of factors. However, if appropriate precautions aren’t taken, surgery may be required to prevent a complete rupture.
Why getting workers’ comp may be a challenge
Conditions like this that can be caused by work but also potentially by things people are doing outside of work can sometimes make getting workers’ compensation benefits difficult. If you’re having difficulty getting workers’ comp for rotator cuff tendonitis – or any medical condition – that you’re confident is work-related, it may be wise to seek legal guidance so that you can get the medical care and time off that you need to heal.