One thing that happens from handling workers comp cases for 23 years is that you learn medical terms and injuries you had never heard of. Some you start to hear about once you learn they exist. I never thought of the ulnar nerve until I became a lawyer and now I hear about ulnar injuries to pitchers in baseball all the time. Others you never hear about except when you see them in a case. Supraspinatus injuries definitely only come up in my life when it comes to work.
The supraspinatus is a small muscle in the upper back that starts in the scapula. It’s one of four muscles that exist in the rotator cuff and its job is to stabilize the shoulder joint.
When it comes to Illinois workers comp, we see supraspinatus problems in two ways: The first is a sudden tear, usually from lifting or a fall. The second and more common way it happens is through repetitive activity. Constructions workers, painters, assembly line workers and laborers tend to do the same type of work over and over. In time the muscles degenerate, quite often in jobs when you are doing a lot of overhead activity.
Many of these tears are fixed with surgery, but it’s possible to try and treat them with physical therapy, steroid injections and pain medications. On average it seems that most of these cases take six months to heal if there is no surgery. If you do have an operation it of course depends on how well the procedure goes, but it’s not uncommon for the post surgery recovery to be six to nine months even though the surgery itself takes about an hour.
Under Illinois law you can’t be forced to have surgery. That said, in some cases if you wait too long, a surgery won’t do anything for you. Whether or not to have the procedure is a conversation to have with your orthopedic doctor.
The number one question we get is how much is a rotator cuff tear worth? The answer depends on many things including your wages, age, the medical care you have and your ultimate recovery. Many workers with a supraspinatus tear can only go back to jobs that pose a big risk of re-injury. That can affect what the case is worth and if you are unable to get back to your old job and suffer a wage loss, it will dramatically increase what your case is ultimately worth.
If you have any questions about a shoulder injury or any other claim, we are happy to consult with you for free any time.