Rotator Cuff Damage Following a Car Accident

Your rotator cuff is not a single muscle, but a group of several muscles and tendons that surround your shoulder joint, keeping the humerus and scapula (upper arm and shoulder) connected, while allowing for a wide range of motion.  When the rotator cuff is damaged during a car accident, it could not only result in pain and reduced range of motion, but it could create persistent or recurring problems without proper treatment.

What can you expect if you suffer a rotator cuff injury during a car accident?  How can you properly treat this injury?  Here’s what you need to know.

Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Injury

Pain is the most noticeable symptom of any rotator cuff injury, although weakness and limited range of motion are also common.  For example, you may have trouble lifting your arm, reaching behind you, or performing normal tasks like brushing your hair.

If your rotator cuff is torn (as opposed to, say, strained), you may experience sharp or sudden pain, as well as pain that radiates down your arm.  Pain in the upper back and neck is also common.  Limited range of motion could prevent you from reaching overhead, and muscle weakness could make it difficult to lift objects.

Swelling is possible with a torn rotator cuff, and you may experience popping or clicking when you move your shoulder.  Many patients suffering from a damaged rotator cuff will experience difficulty sleeping when pressure is placed on the injured shoulder.  If you experience these symptoms following a car accident, it’s best to see a doctor for diagnosis to determine the extent of the injury.

Rest and Recovery

For minor rotator cuff injuries, the body may repair itself, as long as you don’t cause further harm.  This could mean resting, icing the area, and possibly wearing a sling to immobilize your arm, allowing for faster healing and recovery.


For rotator cuff injuries that won’t heal on their own, there are several possible treatment options, but rehabilitation is often the first recommendation.  Even after healing, it’s normal to experience lingering weakness or limited range of motion.  Personalized rehabilitation with an experienced physical therapist is the best way to increase strength and mobility without causing further harm.

Chiropractic Care

In addition to physical therapy, it can be beneficial to see a chiropractor for manipulation, massage, stretching, and holistic care.  Often, rotator cuff injuries, especially those sustained in a car accident, are tied into other pain, such as in the neck and back, as well as the arm.  Chiropractic care addresses all areas of pain for holistic healing and pain relief.

Other Treatment Options

In some cases, you may experience ongoing pain even after rehabilitation.  Steroid injections may be an option, but if you have significant damage that simply won’t heal, you may need surgery.  This is especially common when a tendon is torn.  Surgery is usually a last resort, but it depends on your injury.