Thousands of North Carolina residents are involved in car accidents each year, and many of them suffer painful and sometimes debilitating shoulder injuries in relatively minor crashes. The shoulder is a complex joint made up of three bones, four primary muscles and four main tendons, and the way we behave in the moments before an impact makes it susceptible to injury. Drivers instinctively grip their steering wheels tightly when a collision seems imminent, but doing this can lead to a shoulder impingement injury.
Shoulder impingement injuries
The muscles and tendons of the shoulder form a protective capsule called the rotator cuff. When a steering wheel is gripped tightly in a motor vehicle accident, rapid acceleration and deceleration can subject the rotator cuff to rotational forces that are powerful enough to tear tendons. Shoulder impingement syndrome is a type of rotator cuff injury that occurs when a torn tendon rubs against the top of the shoulder joint. This kind of shoulder injury is commonly suffered by pedestrians and cyclists who throw their arms out to break a fall as well as car accident victims.
How impinged shoulder injuries are treated
An impinged shoulder can make performing even minor tasks extremely painful. Doctors usually treat impinged shoulders with ice and heat to reduce swelling and painkillers to ease discomfort. Patients may also be prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs. When these drugs do not reduce inflammation, cortisone shots may be administered. Cortisone is a powerful anti-inflammatory, but it is used as a last resort because it can damage muscle tissue. When shoulder impingement injuries are serious and a combination of drugs, physical therapy and stretching are not producing the desired results, surgery may be necessary. When shoulder impingement injuries require surgery, a minimally invasive arthroscopic technique is often used to shave off exposed bone spurs and create more space for healing tendons.
A difficult injury to avoid
An impinged shoulder is a difficult injury to avoid because the actions that make us susceptible to it are taken instinctively. These injuries make moving the arms difficult and painful, but they normally respond well to a combination of anti-inflammatory drugs, rest and physical therapy. When an operation is required to treat an impinged shoulder, surgeons may be able to use a minimally invasive technique.