If you have been involved in a serious car accident, it is possible to have a shoulder injury. This can happen with direct impact to the shoulder area - or perhaps while bracing for an impact by gripping the steering wheel very tightly. The rotator cuff or labrum can be injured or torn during such an accident.
If you feel shoulder pain, make sure you discuss it with your doctor as soon as possible. Don't do things that can aggravate the injury or the insurance company will try to blame the injury on a subsequent event. If you are treating with a chiropractor, make sure they know about the shoulder pain right away so they can refer you to an orthopedist for evaluation. This is not the kind of thing where you want to "wait and see" what happens. If you don't mention it, the insurance company will likely conclude a future complaint of shoulder pain must be unrelated to the accident. That goes for any injuries you ignore and/or fail to document.
Generally speaking, when it comes to shoulder surgery, it is an option of last resort. In some cases, the orthopedist may order an immediate MRI if they suspect a shoulder tear. If they are not sure it is a shoulder tear, they might refer you for physical therapy for traditional conservative treatment. In most cases, physical therapy will last approximately six to eight weeks at which time the orthopedist will re-evaluate you.
After the re-evaluation, if you are making good progress, the orthopedist may order additional shoulder physical therapy. In the meantime, the physical therapist should keep your orthopedist aware of your progress or lack of progress or any other concerns the physical therapist has. It is important for the physical therapist and orthopedist keep in touch with each other regularly.
If you are not making progress with the shoulder pain, the doctor may indeed order an MRI to see if you have a tear of any sort. The MRI can be "with" or "without contrast." If the doctor orders the MRI with contrast, that usually involves an injection of a dye into the body. That is a painful procedure but might reveal more than a regular MRI would. Of course, an MRI with contrast is usually more expensive than an MRI without contrast.
If the MRI confirms there is a tear, and the tear is not getting better with conservative treatment, the doctor might recommend pain management. If pain management doesn't work, the doctor might recommend surgery. Make sure you discuss all these options with your doctors after a severe car accident if you are having pronounced and significant shoulder pain.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,