Sometimes, arm and/or shoulder injuries lead to a condition known as “frozen shoulder.” This is often a debilitating condition which may make it impossible for a worker to perform his/her duties on a temporary or permanent basis. Some individuals are able to return to work on a limited basis as treatment protocols continue, while others are not.
So, just what is a frozen shoulder?
The ball-and-socket shoulder joint is encapsulated by fibrous tissue reinforced with a number of ligaments. When healthy and fully functioning, this surrounding tissue serves to:
- Maintain a watertight joint
- Support the ball in the socket through a full range of motion
- Allow the hand to freely move to desired positions
Sometimes, due to acute injury, repetitive stress, illness or scar tissue buildup, the capsule of fibrous tissue and ligaments thickens, gets inflamed or contracts more than desired. As a result, mobility is adversely affected, because the capsule cannot stretch as much as it once did.
As pain gradually worsens during increased activity, workers with frozen shoulders may mistakenly think they have a rotator cuff tear or bursitis. Some patients report that it is difficult to shower or get dressed. Others lose sleep because of night pain. Weakness in the shoulder area may lead to upper arm, neck and even back pain.
Frozen Shoulder Risk Factors
There are a number of risk factors which may increase the likelihood that a worker will develop a frozen shoulder:
- Prolonged immobility
- Certain chronic illnesses
On the job, acute injuries may lead to post-traumatic problems and a frozen shoulder. For example, perhaps the shoulder is immobilized for a lengthy period following an arm or shoulder injury. Scar tissue may form during the healing process that obstructs the full functioning of the shoulder joint. In some cases, mechanical function is reduced because bone is not in the correct position as it heals following a fracture.
Although many types of workers are vulnerable to frozen shoulder syndrome, it is more common in female workers, and in workers between 40 and 65 years-of-age. The average age of a patient with a frozen shoulder is approximately 55 years old.
Treatments for Frozen Shoulder Syndrome
Fortunately, many of those that suffer from frozen shoulder syndrome find that it runs its course over a 9-18 month period. Prescribed pain medications and specialized home exercise regimens may help. However, when the condition is the result of acute workplace trauma, the resulting scar tissue may demand more aggressive forms of treatment like physical therapy or even surgery.
Frozen shoulder and Minnesota work injuries are often a significant problem. When a frozen shoulder leads to a workers comp claim, the injured individual must prove that the condition is work-related. This may be difficult in certain cases. Workers must often present various forms of evidence, including physician testimony and relevant medical records. However, if the worker suffered a previous injury on the job that required immobilization of the shoulder joint, it is often possible to link that injury to the subsequent development of a frozen shoulder.
When it is possible to prove that a frozen shoulder is the result of a work injury, the claimant qualifies for payments which cover all related medical care. A worker that is unable to work because of the condition may qualify for either temporary or permanent disability payments.
If you or a family member has a work-related shoulder problem, it is important to file a claim in a timely manner. For further assistance with your workers comp issue, please contact us. An initial consultation with a workers compensation attorney is provided at no cost to you.