The rotator cuff is not a single structure. Instead, it includes four tendons that come together in your shoulder. These tendons hold the bone in your upper arm in the shallow socket of your shoulder blade.
When you injure your rotator cuff, you could lose the ability to perform many tasks. A torn rotator cuff can prevent you from raising your arm to your front or side.
Below, learn about rotator cuff injuries and the compensation you can seek for them.
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What is the Structure and Function of Your Rotator Cuff?
Your rotator cuff includes four tendons: the infraspinatus, supraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor. Tendons anchor muscles to bones. In the case of your rotator cuff, these four tendons attach muscles from your shoulder blade to the upper end of your arm.
Your upper arm contains a bone called the humerus. This bone has a ball at its upper end that fits into a socket in your shoulder blade. Your shoulder is formed from this joint, along with your collarbone, which sits above this joint.
Your rotator cuff performs two main functions:
- It holds the ball of the humerus in the socket of the shoulder blade
- It provides leverage for the muscles of the shoulder
The muscles anchored by the rotator cuff attach to the front and back of the shoulder blade. These muscles contract or relax to produce the desired movement when you move your shoulder and upper arm.
What Causes Rotator Cuff Injuries?
Rotator cuff injuries happen when you stretch or tear one or more of the rotator cuff tendons. Most rotator cuff injuries involve the supraspinatus tendon.
This tendon runs on top of the shoulder from the shoulder blade to the top of the humerus. It runs below the collarbone.
Rotator cuff injuries have two primary causes:
When you use the muscles and tendons of your rotator cuff, they develop small tears. As they heal, they become stronger than before. This is how exercise builds muscle.
Overuse injuries happen when you do not take the time to heal these tiny tears. Instead of healing, the small tears get worse.
In the case of your rotator cuff, overuse injuries can happen to workers who perform repetitive motions using their shoulders. Painters, for example, can develop rotator cuff strains.
Lifting or working above your head can also stress the rotator cuff. Workers who need to raise their arms for their work can develop rotator cuff strains.
Rotator cuff injuries can result from trauma. Tendons in the rotator cuff can stretch or tear under the forces of an accident.
Your entire body weight can impact your arms as you reach out to catch yourself during a slip and fall accident. This impact can stretch or tear your rotator cuff tendons.
Similarly, the forces of a car accident can cause your muscles and tendons to hyperextend. In a side-impact crash, your arms and shoulders might bend and twist, causing your rotator cuff tendons to stretch and tear.
What Are the Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Injury?
The symptoms of a rotator cuff injury will depend on the severity of the damage to the tendons. The mildest symptoms will occur when you stretch the tendons without tearing them.
A partial tear happens when the tendon tears but not all the way through. A partial tear often looks like a frayed rope. Some of the fibers have become damaged, but the tendon remains attached.
A full-thickness tear happens when the tendon tears all the way through. This injury looks like a hole in the tendon. In severe cases, the tendon may completely separate from the bone.
Symptoms of a rotator cuff injury may include:
- Pain, particularly when raising your arms
- Stiffness and limited range of motion
- Shoulder weakness
- Muscle spasms
The pain you experience will happen in your shoulders. It can range from a sharp pain when lifting your arms to a dull ache.
How Do You Treat Rotator Cuff Injuries?
In many cases, doctors will try to treat rotator cuff injuries without surgery. Rest will allow the injury to heal. Ice and anti-inflammatory drugs will reduce swelling so the body can deliver blood to the injury site.
Your doctor might also prescribe physical therapy. Physical therapy strengthens surrounding muscles and tendons to support the injured area. This support reduces the stress on the torn tendon so it can heal.
In some situations, doctors will operate on your rotator cuff to repair it. Surgery is usually reserved for the worst cases. If your tendon has detached from your humerus or you have multiple torn tendons, a doctor might recommend surgical repair.
After surgery, you will likely need months of rehabilitation and physical therapy. You may also need to change your activities during your rehabilitation since your doctor may immobilize your arm while it heals.
How Do You Get Compensation for Rotator Cuff Injuries?
When a rotator cuff injury happens at work, you will likely receive workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits get paid to injured workers regardless of fault for the accident or injury. With only a few exceptions, the workers’ comp insurer only needs to investigate whether you got injured in the course and scope of your job duties.
Texas law does not require employers to buy workers’ comp insurance. You can file a lawsuit if you get injured while working for a non-subscriber.
Similarly, suppose that you sustained your rotator cuff injury in a non-workplace accident, such as a slip and fall or traffic accident. In that case, you will likely need to file an insurance claim or lawsuit to recover injury compensation.
If you can prove that your accident resulted from someone else’s negligence, you can recover economic and non-economic damages. Your economic damages include your injury’s financial costs, including your medical expenses, lost income, and diminished earning capacity.
Your non-economic damages include your diminished quality of life from your injuries. Examples of non-economic losses include pain, suffering, and the inability to perform tasks.
Rotator cuff injuries can significantly impact your ability to earn a living or even care for yourself. Contact or call Stephens Law at (817) 420-7000 for a free consultation to discuss the compensation you may seek for your rotator cuff injury.