Rotator cuff tears typically occur when people are engaging in a sport like baseball, football or tennis or when they’re lifting weights over their head or hitting a punching bag. The tear is often caused by one traumatic injury, and it’s immediately painful and debilitating. Often it occurs in conjunction with a dislocated shoulder.
Rotator cuff tendonitis – which can also be extremely painful and debilitating – occurs over time. People who engage in repetitive motions that require them to lift their arms over their shoulders are most likely to suffer from it. This can include people who assemble cars and other equipment on an assembly line or those who do interior and exterior painting, washing cars or cleaning that requires them to reach their arms over their head to work.
What happens when someone suffers rotator cuff tendonitis?
First, it’s important to know what the rotator cuff is. It’s comprised of four muscles and connecting tendons on the top of each shoulder. These are what allow us to lift and rotate our arms.
Rotator cuff tendinitis can occur when these muscles become inflamed by repeatedly rub against the upper arm bone (the humerus). Because it happens over time, it can take awhile for someone to realize they have this condition. It grows increasingly more painful – often waking people during the night. Performing everyday tasks – including your work – can become impossible.
It can be diagnosed with an MRI and possibly even with x-rays. If it’s diagnosed early, before the rotator cuff has started to tear and activities that exacerbate it are curtailed, it can often be treated without surgery
Getting workers’ comp for the condition isn’t always easy
Like other work-related injuries that occur over time and that can potentially be caused by activities outside of work, you may get some pushback from your employer or their workers’ comp insurer. The insurer will look at the movements required in your job and likely want to know about your outside activities. If you’re confident that you developed the condition due to your work and you’re having difficulty getting approved for workers’ comp benefits, it may be wise to seek legal guidance.