frozen shoulder workplace injuryOne common type of injury New Jersey workers suffer are shoulder injuries. While some individuals will recover fully from their injuries with medical treatment and a relatively short period of time off work, others may have a more challenging recovery and could experience complications. One serious medical condition that can develop from a shoulder injury is frozen shoulder. If you develop this condition from a workplace injury, you could be off work for more than a year before your injury heals—if you can return to work at all. However, you could be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to pay for your medical expenses and lost wages under New Jersey’s workers’ compensation laws.

What Is Frozen Shoulder?

Frozen shoulder, which is also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a painful condition that affects the shoulder joint. When frozen shoulder develops, the tissues around the shoulder joint stiffen and scar tissue can develop, which can cause a person to experience stiffness, pain, and limitations in the ability to move the shoulder over time. For some people, the pain can be severe enough that it makes it difficult for them to sleep.

Frozen Shoulder Causes and Risk Factors

Doctors are not completely certain why some people develop a frozen shoulder injury. However, it is often caused during the recovery of another shoulder injury, such as one caused by a slip and fall accident, that limits a person’s ability to use his shoulder or immobilizes it. Risk factors that increase the chances that a worker will develop this condition include:

  • Being over 40 years old—even more likely if the person is a woman
  • Suffering an injury or medical condition that restricts shoulder movement, such as a rotator cuff injury, broken arm, stroke
  • Recovering from a surgery that results in limitations in shoulder movement
  • Having certain diseases, such as diabetes, overactive or underactive thyroid, cardiovascular disease, tuberculosis, and Parkinson’s disease

What Are the Stages of a Frozen Shoulder Injury?

Both the symptoms of frozen shoulder and the recovery from it will develop over time. There are three stages to this medical condition:

  1. Freezing stage. During this initial stage, any movement of the shoulder can cause pain and a person experiences limitations in moving his shoulder.
  2. Frozen stage. While the pain may lessen during this stage, a person can experience more stiffness in his shoulder and more limited range of motion.
  3. Thawing stage. This is the recovery phase where the pain in the shoulder will diminish. In addition, a person will gradually experience improvement in his ability to use his shoulder.

Treatments You May Need for a Frozen Shoulder Workplace Injury

If you develop frozen shoulder, you may make a full recovery from your injury. However, it could take 12 to 24 months before this occurs. Treatments for this condition involve reducing the pain and maintaining as much mobility in the shoulder as possible. You could need these treatments:

  • Medication. You may need over-the-counter pain medications to reduce the pain and inflammation around your shoulder joint. If your pain is severe enough, you may require stronger prescription medication.
  • Physical therapy. Physical therapy is an important part of your treatment to increase the mobility in your shoulder and to improve your recovery.
  • Steroid injections. Injections of corticosteroids into the shoulder joint can help reduce the inflammation and pain associated with frozen shoulder. However, the number of injections you could receive may be limited due to the side effects of steroids.
  • Joint dissention. This involves injecting sterile water into the shoulder joint to stretch the tissue and increase mobility.
  • Manipulation. In this procedure, your doctor would manipulate your shoulder after putting you under general anesthetic so you do not experience pain from the procedure. This can stretch the tissues and help improve your shoulder movements.
  • Surgery. While surgery for frozen shoulder is not common, it could be needed to remove scar tissue and adhesions from inside the shoulder joint.

Did you develop frozen shoulder due to a workplace injury? You could be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to pay for the medical treatments you will need and to replace your lost wages during your lengthy recovery period. To learn about the steps you need to take to protect your rights to benefits, call our office or start an online chat to schedule a free consultation.

Manfred Ricciardelli
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Morristown Workers' Compensation Lawyer