Physical jobs can lead to long-term shoulder problems

Have you recently sustained a torn rotator cuff? If so, you are not alone.

As it turns out, this is one of the most common workplace shoulder injuries.

What it is

When you move your arm, there are four tendons that attach from your shoulder blade and rib muscles to your upper arm. The sleeve of these tendons is your rotator cuff. Whenever you push or lift your shoulder against its natural range of movement, you risk injuring this part of your body.

Injuries can cause inflammation which may lead to further problems such as:

  • Rotator cuff tendonitis
  • Shoulder bursitis
  • Rotator cuff tears

Although most rotator cuff injuries respond well to therapy within a few weeks, problems can persist for several months or even years. This is especially true if you do not seek proper medical treatment as soon as possible.

What causes it at work

There are several types of movements that have a tendency to trigger this particular kind of shoulder injury. Work that requires the following kinds of motions requires increased caution to avoid tendon trauma:

  • Pushing off with arms
  • Reaching repetitively
  • Moving arms overhead

If you find yourself doing any of these movements at your job, paying attention to how you do them can prevent you from hurting yourself.

What workers’ comp covers

Because this is such a common workplace injury, it is often one for which people submit worker’s compensation claims. Although rotator cuff injuries can lead to long-term problems, employees often qualify for workers’ comp regardless of whether the injury is permanent or temporary.


Here in North Carolina, most shoulder injuries need to occur due to an “injury by accident” in order to be covered.   An acute injury must be the result of an “accident,” which can be any interruption of the normal work routine.   A slip, trip, fall, or malfunctioning machine can be the “accident”, but the interruption can also be something small and subtle.   However, if you hurt your shoulder “doing your normal job in the normal way” the injury will not be covered!    Rotator cuff injuries can also be covered if they develop over time due to repetitive lifting or other damaging activities at work.   That type of injury is more difficult to get covered, but Bob Bollinger recently won a case for bilateral rotator cuff tears for a field test engineer who engaged in heavy lifting and overhead work every day.

When you hurt yourself at work, the road ahead can seem uncertain.  Contact us immediately for some free, no obligation guidance.   The decisions you make early in the process will have a big effect on how things turn out for you.

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