Shoulder Impingement Syndrome and Workers’ Compensation

Shoulder impingement is a common source of shoulder pain and occurs when the bone on the top of your shoulder impinges, or rubs, the tendon and bursa in the shoulder, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). It may result from repetitive lifting or performing overhead activities, which are common in the construction and painting industries, notes the AAOS.

If the condition is the result of workplace injuries, the injured employee can recover workers’ compensation benefits to pay for medical treatment as well as a portion of lost wages, not to mention other benefits.

Treating Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

Shoulder impingement is related to rotator cuff tendinitis as well as bursitis. These conditions can lead to pain, especially when lifting and reaching such as when performing common work duties. The best treatment for shoulder impingement treats both the symptoms and the underlying condition.

Doctors often prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and swelling in the area. For these drugs to work, the patient needs to refrain from the activities that caused the inflammation in the first place. Physical therapy may be prescribed as well, and some may require steroid injections if these treatments are unsuccessful.

If nonsurgical treatment is unsuccessful, surgery may be required to increase the space in the area for the rotator cuff by removing the bursa and even part of the top bone on the shoulder.

Recovery time will depend on whether the doctor used an arthroscopic (using tiny instruments and a smaller incision) or open surgery. Fortunately, workers’ comp medical benefits will cover these treatment costs and any others related to the injury.

Workers’ Compensation Disability Benefits for Shoulder Impingement

As noted, shoulder impingement may be related to certain repetitive lifting movements and pain may be present especially when performing these and overhead reaching movements. This can make working very difficult, if not impossible, in which case workers may be entitled to disability benefits. If unable to work, the employee is entitled to temporary total disability benefits.

Depending on the success of the treatment, a doctor may deem a claimant able to return to work with restrictions on lifting or other activities. If at a lower-paying position, the worker may recover temporary partial disability to augment his or her paycheck.

The doctor may also deem the patient at maximum medical improvement. For cases where the impingement causes permanent restrictions, the doctor may decide that the patient has a permanent impairment and may issue an impairment rating which will apply to the worker’s permanent partial disability benefits.

Shoulder injuries are industrial disabilities and workers’ comp will consider the following when determining for how many weeks he or she may receive benefits:

  • the impairment rating;
  • worker's experience;
  • previous education;
  • all skills; and
  • age among other factors.

Challenges to Shoulder Impingement Syndrome Claims

Often the employee and the doctor disagree on the extent of the injury. Employers have the right to choose the treating doctor, and the doctor may have some bias on behalf of the employer and/or its insurance company. If an employee feels that the treatment is inadequate, he or she can file a petition for alternate medical treatment with the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner (IWCC). A worker may also request another medical exam if he or she disagrees with the impairment rating.

Walker, Billingsley & Bair in Des Moines can help you pursue fair compensation after a shoulder injury that’s work-related. Contact us at 888-435-9886 or fill out our contact form to set up a consultation.

Corey Walker
With 19 years legal experience, Corey has been recognized for his work as an injury attorney.