No, not talking about feeling cold in the winter.

Do you have pain and stiffness in your shoulder that has gotten worse over time? Has it gotten to the point where you no longer can physically move your shoulder? Did a slow dull pain begin in your shoulder that has gradually limited the way you can use your shoulder. If so, you may have a condition known as frozen shoulder.

Frozen shoulder happens when the group of tendons around your shoulder joint swells and stiffens. That swelling causes adhesions that don’t allow your shoulder to move properly. The cause of frozen shoulder can’t always be directly identified, but sometimes it occurs after a shoulder injury, surgery, or from overuse of the shoulder.  Occasionally it is also attributed to a side effect of diabetes. There are other risk factors that make up the general group of people who may develop frozen shoulder such as, women over 40 are more likely to suffer from the issues associated with frozen shoulder.

We’ve worked with a lot of injured workers who have this condition and it does seem that the most common way they get it is after trauma from a fall.  An example would be slipping on ice at work and then putting your hand down to brace your fall.  Sometimes the pressure that creates leads to an eventual frozen shoulder.  The other popular one seems to be after failed shoulder surgeries.

The good news is just as you can have frozen shoulder, your shoulder can literally go through a thawing process that will allow you to regain mobility. The treatments for frozen shoulder include everything from pain medication and exercise to cortisone shots and electrical nerve stimulation. In only a small amount of cases, a minimally invasive surgery is performed to remove the scar tissue built up in the shoulder.  Once your shoulder begins to thaw out, it will slowly improve mobility. This process may take several months, perhaps even physical therapy, but there is hope.

Over the years we’ve helped hundreds of people with this condition.  It sucks.  I have a torn rotator cuff myself and while it’s pretty asymptomatic now, when it did act up it was unbearable.  I can’t even imagine how awful a frozen shoulder problem would be as it would clearly impact every activity of daily life.

My best advice, and it’s not really legal advice, is to not ignore this problem and immediately see a doctor.  Yes that can help any potential work comp claim, but more importantly, seeing an orthopedic doctor right away can increase your chances of catching this early enough that it doesn’t become a long term problem.

Bonus tip, don’t listen to any insurance adjuster who tries to tell you that your frozen shoulder isn’t related to your initial work injury.  If you can trace it back to the original accident (e.g. you wouldn’t have had surgery were it not for the work accident) then you should get benefits under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.  This is true even if you had a pre-exisisting condition which was made worse by the job accident.

Any questions about any of this or if you want to talk about a case, contact us at any time.  It’s always free and confidential.