The group of tendons and muscles located in your shoulder is known as the rotator cuff.
Your rotator cuff performs many functions.
Two of its major functions are helping to keep your shoulder joint in its right place and helping you to rotate and lift your arm when you engage in different activities.
Sometimes, the rotator cuff could tear due to an accident or get pinched by the surrounding bones.
The tearing could also be a result of old age, heavy lifting, or when you do the same activities with your shoulders for many years.
When this tearing happens, it could result in you having surgery.
However, a minor rotator cuff tear can easily be treated without surgery while a major tear might require surgery, depending on the severity of the tear.
In cases where a rotator cuff surgery is done, is it possible for the aftermath of the surgery to render you temporarily disabled?
Can you claim a temporary disability benefit after a rotator cuff surgery?
These are some of the major questions I’ll provide answers to as you read on.
Table of Contents
Rotator Cuff Injury: All You Need to Know
- Symptoms of Injury to the Rotator Cuff
- How Rotator Cuff Tear Is Diagnosed
- Treatment for Rotator Cuff Injury
- Types of Surgery for Treating Rotator Cuff Tear
- How Long Does It Take to Fully Recover from a Rotator Cuff Surgery?
- Can You Become Temporarily Disabled After a Rotator Cuff Surgery?
- Can You Get Social Security Disability Benefits for Rotator Cuff Surgery?
Rotator Cuff Injury: All You Need to Know
Rotator cuff tear is a musculoskeletal impairment that can cause excruciating pain. The tear can become bigger if adequate treatment is not done on time.
And when this happens, surgery might be urgently required to treat the tear and stop the pain.
People who are most likely to suffer from rotator cuff tear include athletes, the aged, carpenters, painters, and construction workers.
Symptoms of Injury to the Rotator Cuff
When you experience the following symptoms consistently for more than a week, it’s an indication that you’re probably suffering from a rotator cuff tear and there is the need to see a doctor immediately.
- Tenderness and severe pain or deep ache in your shoulder, especially when you sleep or rest on the injured shoulder
- Weakness of the shoulder and the inability to use your arm
- If you’re unable to reach behind your back or comb your hair, then it’s a sign that you may have rotator cuff injury
How Rotator Cuff Tear Is Diagnosed
The doctor or physiotherapist will examine your shoulder(s) by pressing it gently to determine the affected area.
They might also test the strength of the muscles around your arm and shoulder by lifting your arm in diverse angles or telling you to perform different arm exercises.
After the examination, the doctor could also tell you to do any of three tests to enable them to properly diagnose you and have an understanding of what’s going on in your shoulders. The tests include Ultrasound, MRI, and X-ray.
Treatment for Rotator Cuff Injury
After you’ve done the necessary test or scan, your doctor or healthcare practitioner will be able to decide if your rotator cuff tear is a major or minor one and if surgery is required.
Minor rotator cuff injury
Surgery is not needed if you happen to have a minor injury in your rotator cuff.
Instead, your doctor or physiotherapist may recommend different home remedies or treatments that can help to decrease the pain and enable you to heal on time.
Those recommendations may include:
- Having enough rest and stopping activities that might require you to use your arms
- Using ice packs to massage the affected shoulder
- Performing special exercises or physiotherapy for two or three months to reduce the pain
- Over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin
- The doctor might also administer steroid injections to numb the pain
Major rotator cuff injury
Surgery might be needed if you don’t experience any relief after carrying out all your doctor’s recommendations and taking the prescriptions as discussed above.
You will also need surgery if you suffer a major rotator cuff tear.
In most cases, this can be determined through the use of an arthroscope.
This involves investigating your rotator cuff by using a small camera to examine your cartilage, tendons, and ligaments to determine the possibility of surgery.
The arthroscopy is done after you’ve been sedated. In this procedure, the doctor makes a small incision in your shoulder and inserts a small tube with a camera to navigate the rotator cuff tear.
If the procedure indicates a large or full-thickness tear, then surgery will have to be done immediately to repair the tear before it becomes worse.
Types of Surgery for Treating Rotator Cuff Tear
After you’ve been given anesthesia, any of the following procedures might be done to treat your rotator cuff tear.
Open tendon repair
This type of surgery is particularly important if there is the need to replace a shoulder joint or tendon, or if you have a complex tear.
It involves the process of making a large incision in your shoulder. Your shoulder muscle will then be detached to enable the surgeon to have direct access to your tendon.
This surgery is more advanced and uses an arthroscope alongside other thin tools that are inserted into your shoulder through multiple incisions.
How Long Does It Take to Fully Recover from a Rotator Cuff Surgery?
The recovery for non-surgical treatment of rotator cuff injury takes three to 6 weeks while the surgical treatment takes about 2 to 4 months, depending on the severity of the tear.
In some cases, a person might fully recover after 6 to 12 months, especially if the person is an athlete.
Can You Become Temporarily Disabled After a Rotator Cuff Surgery?
Even though a rotator cuff surgery is often very successful, there could be situations where the surgery might not be able to restore your full shoulder strength due to some underlying medical conditions or complications during the surgery.
This could cause you weakness and pain as time goes on. And it might make you suffer from temporary disability for a while.
Can You Get Social Security Disability Benefits for Rotator Cuff Surgery?
If the law of the state you reside in makes provision for temporary disability benefits, then you could get disability benefits till you recover completely.
The same applies to your place of work, especially if your rotator cuff tear was work-related.
You can equally get disability benefits through the SSA if your temporary disability meets the requirements of musculoskeletal impairment as contained in the SSA’s Blue Book.
Even if you don’t meet the requirements, you can still claim disability benefits till you recover completely. But you’ll have to prove that your disability has prevented you from working or earning a sustainable income.
Claiming disability benefits through this method can be achieved on time with the help of an expert in social security or a social security disability lawyer.