Shoulder Injury After A Car Accident

Shoulder Injury After A Car Accident
By Kimberly BishopJuly 13, 2018,

If you have sustained a shoulder injury after a car accident, read on for types of shoulder injuries with treatment options and tips for navigating your personal injury case. The Bishop Law Firm represents car accident victims and we do not get paid unless we win your case.

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This article is not intended as medical advice regarding shoulder injury. If you have injured your shoulder in a car accident, please seek immediate medical attention. 

The Shoulder

The key structures of the shoulder include the scapula (shoulder blade), clavicle (collar bone), humerus (upper arm bone), labrum, rotator cuff, deltoid and biceps tendon ( While the shoulder is the  most mobile joint on the body, it is vulnerable to injury (Medical News Today). The shoulder contains a variety of bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments that can sustain injury in a car accident.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, most shoulder problems are caused by tendon inflammation, instability, arthritis or fracture (broken bone). A car accident can certainly cause any (or all) of these problems, even arthritis. Unfortunately, a victim can sustain trauma and develop post-traumatic arthritis.

Types of Shoulder Injury After Car Accident (WebMD and Mayo Clinic):


Whiplash is common after car accidents especially rear end accidents.  A whiplash injury can occur when the neck is forced forward and then back as your vehicle makes an impact with another vehicle. Although whiplash affects the neck, it can also affect the shoulder, arms and upper back of an accident victim. Whiplash can last a few weeks or years under the wrong car accident circumstances. Do not assume that you have whiplash after an accident! Medical testing needs to be completed to rule out more serious shoulder injury (spinal cord damage or a herniated disc) from your car accident. 

2. Dislocated Shoulder

This occurs when your arm bone pops out of its socket. Intense shoulder pain and inability to move your arm are symptoms. A forceful blow to your shoulder joint (like those experienced in car accidents) can cause shoulder dislocation. Treatment involves closed reduction, surgery, immobilization, medication and/or rehabilitation. In most cases, the shoulder will be fine in a few weeks but in other cases the shoulder becomes unstable and repeatedly dislocates (Via Mayo Clinic ). Many people can tell immediately if they have dislocated their shoulder because of the physical appearance of the arm and the terrible pain. Take photos of your vehicle, the accident scene and injuries immediately.

3.Separated Shoulder

Though separated and dislocated shoulders sound like they are the same injury, they are not. Separated shoulders occur when trauma tears a ligament that connects the collarbone to the shoulder blade. The collarbone may move and push against your skin at the top of your shoulder. After this injury, there will also be intense pain as well as a physical deformity. If the ligament tear is severe, you will need surgery and then immobilization (sling) while you heal (Via WebMD ). Document difficulties with completing tasks of daily living as well as any time you miss from work.

4.Shoulder Fracture

The collar bone, top of the upper arm bone and the shoulder blade can all be fractured. Since the shoulder blade is surrounded by muscles and chest, a fracture in this area is the result of an extremely hard blow. Fractures are usually diagnosed by x-ray which is what hospitals most often offer to car accident victims. The treatment for the fracture depends on the location and type of fracture (Via OrthoInfo ). Follow all medical advice and tell your doctor if you are not progressing or if the injury pain worsens.

5. Rotator Cuff Tear

There are four muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor) and ligaments that make up the rotator cuff. If any or all of these are damaged you have a rotator cuff tear. Acute torn rotator cuff in those under 30 years of age requires a significant amount of trauma. Impingement syndrome usually accompanies a rotator cuff tear. There are non-surgical treatments such as steroid injections and physical therapy. If warranted, surgery to repair the rotator cuff will follow (via eMedicineHealth ). X-rays usually do not demonstrate rotator cuff tears and an MRI will be needed.

6. Bursitis (a.k.a. shoulder impingement, rotator cuff tendonitis or supraspinatus tendonitis)

While impingement syndrome is commonly caused by repeat irritation, it can also be caused by a traumatic injury. If your bursa is compressed during the car accident, this can result in a healing reaction. This healing reaction is bursitis. Treatment for bursitis involves reducing pain and the inflammation (Via PhysioWorks ). Many clients seek chiropractic care after car accidents but make sure that your type of shoulder injury will benefit from chiropractic care.

If you have sustained a shoulder injury from a car accident, please seek medical treatment immediately. Waiting to receive medical treatment not only endangers your financial recovery for your car accident injury, but it is also bad for your health.

The Bishop Law Firm represents car victims of auto accidents in RaleighCaryDurhamRocky MountWilsonFayettevilleSmithfieldLouisburgChapel HillRoanoke RapidsApex, GreensboroWinston-SalemGreenville and more! We look forward to working with you and wish you a speedy recovery.

Also read: North Carolina Car Accident Lawyer

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