What causes persistent shoulder pain post-accident?

Therapeutic Associates
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I had a motorbike accident 3-and-a-half months ago. During that accident, I broke bones in my left shoulder. The fractures healed in about six weeks but since then, I have not been able to lift my left arm above my shoulder level. My MRI results do not show any serious problem in my rotator cuff tendon. My doctor believes it’s a shoulder impingement, my therapist says it’s a frozen shoulder, but I am suspicious of some sort of nerve damages. Is there any more accurate and more reliable way for diagnosing the root cause of this disability?

Disclaimer: Please note, this reply is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, physical therapist, or other qualified health provider with a medical condition.

Things to Know

  • When it comes to diagnosing shoulder conditions, physical therapy examinations are the most reliable method.
  • Rotator cuff problems typically cause pain during active shoulder movement.
  • Characterized by stiffness and a loss of motion, frozen shoulder can hinder arm rotation and elevation.
  • Symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and weakness traveling from the shoulder to the hand may indicate nerve involvement.

Dealing with the aftermath of a motorbike accident is never easy, especially when it leaves you with lingering shoulder pain and limited mobility. While we can’t provide a specific diagnosis without an examination, we’ll delve into potential issues and reliable ways to identify the underlying problem that is causing your shoulder issues.

In general, we can say for cases of bone fracture that requires immobility for healing, there will be limitations in muscle and joint range of motion with movements like raising the arm. Various factors can contribute to post-accident shoulder issues, including weakness and stiffness in the rotator cuff muscles, frozen shoulder affecting joint structure, and nerve injuries. For a more accurate diagnosis, it’s crucial to pay attention to accompanying symptoms.

  • Rotator Cuff Issues: Patients with rotator cuff problems often experience pain during active shoulder movement.
  • Frozen Shoulder: Characterized by stiffness and a loss of motion, frozen shoulder can hinder arm rotation and elevation. An important note is that both the patient and the therapist may be unable to move the arm.
  • Nerve Damage: Symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and weakness traveling from the shoulder to the hand may indicate nerve involvement.

When it comes to diagnosing shoulder conditions, physical therapy examinations are the most reliable method. Unlike imaging, physical therapy assessments can reveal limitations in range of motion and identify specific issues hindering movement. 

Physical therapy patient gets treatment for shoulder

In cases where a therapist can move the arm through full motion, but the patient struggles, frozen shoulder becomes less likely, pointing toward other potential causes.

While this answer doesn’t replace professional medical advice, it sheds light on the complexities of post-accident shoulder pain. By understanding the potential causes and the importance of physical therapy in diagnosis, you can embark on a journey towards recovery with a clearer understanding of your condition. With clinics throughout the Pacific Northwest, Therapeutic Associates Physical Therapy is likely to have a PT office near you. Use our clinic locator to find your clinic and schedule an assessment today!

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As physical therapists, we know the importance of pain-free movement for overall health and well-being. From injury recovery to achieving optimal performance, our passion is to help every patient reach their goals . Get started with PT today!

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