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That pain in your shoulder could be a rotator cuff injury

Do you repeat the same motion over and over and over again at work each day? Over time, has your shoulder begun to hurt, and now you can no longer take the pain? Aside from repetitive motions, did you fall on your arm or lift something heavy and you now suffer from intense pain?

In either case, you could suffer from a rotator cuff injury. Don't take that pain in your shoulder lightly. Without proper diagnosis and treatment, it will only get worse. In fact, your ability to use the affected arm could be compromised for the rest of your life.

About your rotator cuff

Four muscles and four tendons make up the rotator cuff. Without these, you wouldn't be able to lift or rotate your arm. The rotator cuff also supports your shoulder joint. If you have a rotator cuff injury, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • You notice your shoulder is weak.
  • You hear or feel popping or clocking when you move your arm.
  • You have trouble lifting your arm.
  • You experience pain just from lying on it
  • You experience pain when you attempt to move your arm.
  • You are not be able to lift things as normal.

You could experience all or some of these symptoms, and the longer you wait to have it checked out by a doctor, the more serious and debilitating the injury can get. For instance, you could end up with arthritis pain that doesn't allow you full range of motion. You could also suffer from something called "frozen shoulder," which also limits your range of motion.

About the doctor's visit

Your doctor will more than likely start with a physical examination. Thereafter, he or she may order an MRI, an ultrasound or X-rays to confirm the diagnosis and determine the extent of the damage. Your treatment may include the following:

  • Your doctor may prescribe an anti-inflammatory and a pain reliever.
  • Your doctor may give you certain exercises to do in order to stretch and strengthen the muscles.
  • Your doctor may believe the damage requires surgery to fix.

Surgery is often required in cases of complete tears where the tendon or muscle separates from the bone. Even in an incomplete tear, the circumstances may require surgery.

About your recovery

Even without surgery, you could be out of commission for a while. Trying to rush recovery of a rotator cuff injury could make matters worse. If you had surgery, your arm could remain in a sling anywhere from four to six weeks. With or without surgery, you don't want to lift your arm before it's ready.

That piercing (and perhaps excruciating) pain you feel when you try to lift it beyond its tolerance will remind you, but it would still be best not to push it that far. There is no concrete schedule for your recovery, when you can return to your normal work duties or even when you can sleep on your shoulder without pain.

About your financial losses

This injury may only take you out of work for weeks, but during that time, you incur medical and medical-related expenses and lose income. You may apply for workers' compensation benefits for a work-related injury. Obtaining those benefits can involve a great deal of frustration and consternation on your own. Fortunately, you don't have to go through the process alone.

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