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Adhesive capsulitis after a Car Accident

If you are involved in a car accident one of the injuries you may sustain is called a “Frozen Shoulder,” or adhesive capsulitis. This usually develops because you suffered an injury to the shoulder which required you to immobilize the shoulder while it healed. The immobilization is factor in causing the frozen shoulder.

Read below as it is important you address this disease when making a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy.

What is adhesive capsulitis

Adhesive capsulitis is a disease where your shoulder “freezes up.” It is marked by two main characteristics: pain and contracture.

Contracture is a hardening of your normally elastic tissues, including muscles, tendons and other connective tissues, in this case, surrounding the your shoulder joint (capsule). Elastic tissues are replaced with nonelastic tissues.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Decrease in range of motion

Symptoms may vary depending on which of the 3 stages of the disease you are in:

  1. Freezing stage. Any movement of your shoulder causes intense pain. Pain usually worsens at night, and when it’s cold. Your shoulder’s natural range of motion begins to decrease.
  2. Frozen stage. Pain may actually decrease during this stage, but your shoulder is effectively frozen. Becoming stiffer, and increasingly difficult to use.
  3. Thawing stage. Your range of motion begins to improve.
adhesive capsulitis after a motor vehicle accident in California
These photos taken through an arthroscope show a normal shoulder joint lining (left) and an inflamed joint lining damaged by frozen shoulder.

How can a car accident cause adhesive capsulitis

Adhesive capsulitis caused by a car accident is usually the result of you suffering from an initial injury to your shoulder. Doctors use the term “secondary.” As in, the adhesive capsulitis is “secondary” to the trauma experienced in a car accident.

The initial trauma to the shoulder itself could cause the frozen shoulder. But the frozen shoulder may also develop after the shoulder is immobilized to treat another injury. For example, there was a rotator cuff tear from the car accident. This may require surgery and subsequent rest, or immobilization for it to heal.

While the shoulder is immobile, scar tissue sets in the capsule. You can’t move the shoulder because of the injury, so the scar tissue is not broken up.

How is it treated

Most injured victims with frozen shoulder heal with conservative treatment. Usually the disease goes away within months to a couple of years. Conservative treatment include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), and corticosteroid injections directly into the shoulder.

Physical therapy may also be prescribed.

For those who don’t respond to these conservative treatments, more aggressive procedures may be used, like arthroscopic surgery where a small incision is made and doctors use tiny cameras and tiny surgical instruments to break the capsule up.

Another aggressive procedure is manipulation under anesthesia (MUA). The doctor administers anesthesia and forces the shoulder to move around, breaking up the scar tissue.

Sometimes both surgery and MUA is needed. The good news is, long term outcomes are generally good with most patients experiencing little to no symptoms.

How is my accident claim affected by the adhesive capsulitis

Frozen shoulder is a generally a long term condition, taking months or even years to resolve. This can greatly affect the value of your case.

When making a claim for any injuries caused by someone else, a few factors that go into the calculation include

  • Pain
    • Intensity of pain
    • Duration of pain
  • Suffering
    • Mental anguish
    • Emotional distress
    • Family relations
  • Disability
    • Impairment
    • Duration of impairment
  • Loss of quality of life
    • Overall how much was your life affected
    • How long was it affected. Is it still being affected.

This is in addition to all of your medical bills. Cases involving frozen shoulder are not simple, and should be handled by an experienced car accident attorney. If you have any questions call our office for a free consultation. (888) 320-2058.

Law Office of Joseph Dang

7220 Trade St., #220
San Diego, CA 92121
Phone: 888-320-2058