Size of Rotator Cuff Tear May Have No Impact on Pain Level

One of the more common injuries we see in Pennsylvania workers’ compensation is a tear of the rotator cuff in the shoulder. We have discussed this kind of injury previously on the blog. This kind of injury can happen suddenly, or it can occur progressively, over a period of months, or even years. Regardless of the timing, a tear in the rotator cuff can certainly be disabling and, if caused by work duties, make one entitled to PA workers’ comp benefits.

A recent study on rotator cuff tears showed that the degree of pain one suffers is NOT necessarily based on how significant a tear has occurred. This would certainly be of interest to the many physicians who perform Defense Medical Examinations (officially, and humorously, called “Independent” Medical Examinations), who seem to automatically question the truth of a patient who complains of significant pain without having a substantial tear reflected on an imaging study, such as an MRI. This is further proof that medicine is not an exact science, and that the history, and complaints, of a patient must be given true attention.

It is also important to keep in mind that having had some shoulder problems in the past, such as degenerative joint disease, may not prevent receiving Pennsylvania workers’ compensation benefits, if work duties materially worsen the condition. We call this an “aggravation,” and it is treated as a new injury for the purposes of workers’ comp.