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Diagnosing and Treating Shoulder Injuries

Shoulder pain is a common complaint in personal injury and workers' compensation cases. The majority of problems involve soft tissue injuries, including muscles, ligaments, tendons, and cartilage.

These injuries are often caused by repetitive motions, straining, falls, and car wrecks. If you are experiencing shoulder injury symptoms such as stiffness, weakness or feel like your shoulder could pop or slide out of the socket, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible to prevent further injury.


Shoulder Injury Attorney Georgia

Diagnosing a Shoulder Injury

An orthopedic surgeon may advise the patient to perform a series of exercises to help strengthen the shoulder muscles. Prescriptions to reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain are also common. If these treatments are insufficient, surgery may be an option.

To diagnose a shoulder injury, an orthopedic surgeon may perform an arthroscopy to inspect and repair the injured part of the shoulder joint. During surgery, a small camera called an arthroscope is inserted into the joint to guide the surgeon's tiny surgical instruments. This means the surgeon only has to use small incisions, shortening the time it takes for patients to recover and reducing scarring.

Diagram of human shoulder

Rotator Cuff Tear

A rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that keep the ball of the upper arm bone firmly within the socket of the shoulder. Repetitive overhead motion wears down the rotator cuff, making it susceptible to tearing.

A rotator cuff injury is often described as a dull ache originating deep within the shoulder. An injured person's arm may feel weak or they struggle to reach behind their back or above their head. The pain may be severe enough to wake a person while sleeping when lying on the injured shoulder.

Treatment: Rest, ice, and physical therapy are usually all that is needed to repair a rotator cuff injury. For a severe rotator cuff tear, a steroid injection or surgical intervention may be required.

Rotator Cuff Tendinitis/Shoulder Impingement

Pain is often located in the front of the shoulder or middle of the arm. People who repeatedly lift things or perform overhead actions like painting or construction are most at risk. When lifting the arms there may be stiffness or tenderness. If the symptoms get worse, they can lead to loss of strength and sleep problems.

Treatment: Usually non-surgical. Rest, medicine, physical therapy or steroid injections may be used. 


SLAP stands for Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior. The labrum is a small, thin muscle located along the crease where the arm bone and shoulder connect. The labrum connects to tendons that loop over the front of the joint and control the bicep muscle. A tear at this connection point is where a SLAP injury occurs. Common symptoms include decreased range of motion, a grinding sensation, popping/locking, and pain when lifting or holding the shoulder in specific positions.

Treatment: Typically, non-surgical. Medication or physical therapy may be prescribed. A shoulder arthroscopy may be recommended if the pain does not improve.

Dislocated Shoulder/Instability

Dislocation is when the upper arm bone pops out of the socket of the shoulder blade. This injury is often accompanied by labral tears or Bankart lesions. Symptoms include weakness, numbness, and/or tingling down the arm or neck. The most obvious signs include a visibly out-of-place shoulder, intense pain, and the inability to move the arm normally.

Treatment: A doctor will do a "closed reduction," which simply means they pop the joint back into place. This should stop any pain immediately. If the shoulder is unstable, surgery may be needed to place sutures to repair damaged tissue.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, usually manifests slowly over time. There are three stages:

  1. Freezing/Inflammation: The shoulder's range of motion is reduced and there is pain any time the shoulder moves.
  2. Adhesive/Frozen: Pain may decrease but the shoulder becomes stiffer and the range of motion decreases significantly.
  3. Thawing: The shoulder's range of motion begins to return.

Treatment: Focus on regaining range of motion and managing pain through painkillers and physical therapy. Arthroscopy or surgery under anesthesia may be needed to manipulate the shoulder and increase its range of movement.

Shoulder Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is when the smooth outer covering of cartilage wears away (also referred to as "wear and tear" arthritis). As the cartilage begins to fray, the space between bones decreases. When they rub together, it causes pain. Motion may be limited and a painful grinding or clicking may be heard whenever the shoulder moves.

Treatment: Rest, physical therapy, medication, and corticosteroid injections may be prescribed. If an arthroscopy is needed, the surgeon will insert a camera into the shoulder to see where they need to release adhesions and repair torn tissue. If the arthritis is advanced, the shoulder joint is replaced with a prosthesis (this process is known as arthroplasty).


A fall or strong blow can tear the acromioclavicular (AC) joint. This joint keeps your collarbone and shoulder blade together. If the ligaments in your collarbone are injured, the bone is pushed out of place, causing a bump on top of the shoulder.

Treatment: May require surgery and a sling to hold it in place while it heals. Medication would be provided for the pain.


Shoulder bones can break from the force of a fall or car accident. Common breaks include the clavicle (collarbone) and the humerus (upper arm bone). Fractures tend to be painful and bruise. A broken collarbone can cause a shoulder to sag and you may not be able to lift your arm.

Treatment: May require surgery and a sling to hold it in place while it heals. Medication would be provided for the pain.

Shoulder Injury: Workers' Compensation and Car Accidents

At Gary Martin Hays & Associates, we have handled many shoulder injury settlements over the years. Whether you hurt your shoulder at work or sustained a should injury in a crash caused by a negligent driver, we can help get you the medical care and financial peace of mind you need to recover.

Don't let shoulder pain slow you down. Contact our Atlanta personal injury lawyers today to get started on your work shoulder injury settlement or car accident shoulder pain case.


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