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Heard a snap? It might be a rotator cuff injury

When you were working, you heard an unusual "pop" in your shoulder. You had been sore for a while, but you never expected that it would suddenly lock up and be unable to be used.

After that surprising sound, you noticed that you couldn't move your arm in the same way. It was totally weak, and you had to stop what you were doing. Your coworker urged you to call an ambulance or to go to the emergency room.

After a series of tests, you found that one of your rotator cuff tendons had completely severed. It was most likely due to the repetitive movements that you performed on the job every day. Fortunately, knowing that the tendon snapped early enough and seeking immediate care means that you can have surgery to correct it and regain movement in the future. It's costly, and it will take months of recovery.

What should you expect with a rotator cuff injury?

In your case, you're lucky that the tendon was able to be reattached, but it does mean that you'll have to go through physical therapy to recover your strength and mobility.

Rotator cuff injuries affect around 2 million people a year in the United States. You may notice that you have trouble with weakness in your shoulder, trouble combing your hair, trouble washing your hair and other movements that require your shoulder to rotate. You may notice significant pain, especially when laying on your shoulder.

In your case, you have a full-thickness tear. It can be repaired, but you still have to go through months of physical therapy and may need pain medication in the meantime. You will likely be unable to do the same job that you were performing when it happened, especially if it requires the movement that resulted in the tendon snapping.

After an acute tear of your rotator cuff, it's important to speak with your employer about your options. You may be able to return to work (once you are in less pain and comfortable to do so) and perform different duties on the job. You should also speak with them about starting a workers' compensation claim. Workers' compensation coverage should cover your medical costs and replace part of your lost wages, so you are able to take the time to focus on recovery without having to worry about heading back to the workforce before you're fully recovered.

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