Roughly 4.5 million Americans every year visit their doctors for treatment for shoulder pain. This pain could result from a variety of reasons. A lot of the time it results from repetitive, excessive overhead motions in athletics (such as swimming, tennis, pitching, and weightlifting) or from normal everyday activities (such as washing walls, loading or storing heavy items, or gardening). Sometimes shoulder pain can happen after accidents such as auto accidents or if you fall down and injure your shoulder. It is especially important to visit your doctor if your shoulder is stiff, if you lack the strength to carry out your normal every day activities, or if it feels like your shoulder has popped out of your socket.
Sometimes the shoulder pain is caused by an injury that can be treated without surgery such as minor pains and strains, rotator cuff injuries (the rotator cuff muscles give you the ability to lift your arm and reach overhead), impingement (excessive rubbing of the shoulder muscles on the top part of the shoulder blade) or shoulder instability. Treatment for these injuries typically includes physical therapy for your shoulder that strengthens it and provides more stability. You may also receive anti-inflammatory medication or steroid injections.
Injuries to the shoulder also include fractures to the humerus (the humeral head of the shoulder is the “ball” part of the ball and socket), the scapula (commonly known as the shoulder blade) which is a triangular shaped bone which has a part called the glenoid that forms the “socket” for the head of the humerus, and the clavicle (commonly known as the collar bone) which connects the shoulder to the rest of the body via two joints, the acromioclavicular joint and the sternoclavicular joint. Sometimes two or all three of these bones can get fractured. Usually a fractured shoulder can be treated by having your arm in a sling or figure 8 strap for three to eight weeks. However if the fracture is severe enough, or if you fractured multiple bones, you can need surgical treatment.
It is important for your treating doctor – likely an orthopedist – to be able to diagnose the type of shoulder injury you have so you receive the appropriate treatment. Misdiagnosing the injury and giving the wrong treatment – such as having you undergo physical therapy and shoulder strengthening when you have a shoulder injury that requires your arm to be resting in a sling or needs surgery – can further aggravate your injury and result in it healing improperly. This can ultimately lead to limited use of your arm in the future.
In order to diagnose your injury you will receive imaging studies such as an X-Ray and your doctor will also perform a physical exam.
Findings for a clavicle fracture include: Swelling about the middle of the collarbone area; an area that may have a “bump,” which is the fracture under the skin limited shoulder range of motion (although not as limited as a fracture of the other two bones).
Findings of a humerus fracture include: A severely swollen shoulder; very limited movement of the shoulder; severe pain.
Findings for a scapular fracture include: Pain; swelling; severe bruising about the shoulder blade.
The Thistle Firm has successfully handled a misdiagnosis of a shoulder fracture. The client’s treating doctors missed a fracture of two of the client’s bones in imaging studies and was unable to diagnose it over five separate visits. As a result the client’s fracture healed in an awkward manner resulting in extended pain and eventual limited use of the client’s arm – so the client needed help doing every day activities like dressing himself. At trial the jury found the client’s treating doctor was negligent in failing to diagnose the client’s shoulder fracture and awarded him over $800,000.
If you or someone you know has serious impairment of their arm because of a misdiagnosis or mistreatment of a shoulder injury the attorneys at the Thistle Firm are here to take your call at 215-568-6800.