Winter can be unpredictable in Buffalo, NY. That can sometimes spell bad news for your shoulder.
Even though snow can be beautiful it can sometimes lead to slippery conditions that can result in unexpected problems. One of the most common types of injuries that I see in the winter are shoulder injuries after a slip and fall.
I will give you an example of a patient story so that you can recognize it when you see it.
Over night the temperatures dropped below freezing and about 3 inches of snow fell on the ground. Our friend, an active 59-year-old man plowed the driveway in the morning and put some salt down. Later that day he went grocery shopping. Temperatures stayed cold.
When he arrived home he made a few trips back and forth from his car to the house to bring the groceries inside. On his last trip he lost his footing on a small patch of ice in the driveway that he did not see. He fell directly onto his left shoulder. He had a lot of pain and thinks he felt something “pop” in the left shoulder when he fell.
He was able to get up and go in the house. He told his wife that he was in a lot of pain, and was having trouble moving his left shoulder and needed help picking up the last few things out of the car and taking his coat off.
His wife was concerned and convinced him to go to the urgent care facility for an X-ray.
They went to the urgent care and got an x-ray. The doctor there told him that the x-ray was negative and they gave him a sling and some pain killers and told him to follow up with his primary doctor if pain did not improve.
Unfortunately this happens more often than you think.
While the man did get lucky and did not break his shoulder, he ultimately visited his doctor who ordered an MRI and found that he had torn his rotator cuff.
One of the most common shoulder injuries after a slip and fall is a rotator cuff tear. Rotator cuff tears typically do no show up on x-ray, meaning that a negative x-ray does not mean your shoulder is OK.
This is because x-rays mostly see bone. To best see a rotator cuff tear you need an MRI and a good physical exam.
Rotator cuff tears after a fall on the ice are more common in Buffalo, NY than you would think and they can be serious. They can be large and lead to permanent loss of strength and motion if you don’t catch them early. There’s a narrow window of a few months that you have to fix some types of rotator cuff tears after a fall. So time is of the essence.
I have seen some patients who ignore shoulder pain after a slip and fall. Some of them ended up missing that window of opportunity and it can be unfortunate.
If you have had a slip and fall and your shoulder hurts badly, then you should likely get it checked out.