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Minnesota Work Injuries and Frozen Shoulder – What You Should Know

On Behalf of | Jul 15, 2018 | Workers' Compensation

Minnesota work injuries and frozen shoulder are very familiar to Minnesota workers’ comp attorneys. Given that many jobs involve employees constantly using their arms for heavy or repetitive lifting, this is not really surprising. Another common cause of shoulder injuries is trauma as the result of someone putting out their hand to brace a fall. Injuries can vary in severity and can include strains, dislocations, and frozen shoulder.

Shoulder Injuries Tops for Missed Work Days

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2014 shoulder injuries caused workers to miss an average of twenty-six days of work, more time than from injuries to any other body part. A report from The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) states that between 2008 and 2012 the frequency of claims for lost work time for most body part injuries dropped an average of 13.9 percent. One notable exception relates to injuries involving the arm and shoulder, which fell by only one percent over the same period.

Frozen Shoulder Explained

Frozen shoulder, also known by its medical name of adhesive capsulitis, is a painful condition that often develops in people who are recovering from another injury. The stiffness in the shoulder limits motion in all directions – reaching up in the air or placing the hand behind the back becomes difficult or impossible. The pain can interfere with daily activities and sleep.

Frozen shoulder happens when the capsule of connective tissue encasing the ligaments, tendons, and bones in the shoulder thickens, restricting the movement of the shoulder joint. People who experience a frozen shoulder are usually in for a long and painful recovery period. The condition usually develops somewhat slowly, with each stage lasting for several months. Typically frozen shoulder patients go through three stages:

  • Freezing: The shoulder joint gradually stiffens over a period of six weeks to nine months.
  • Frozen: Once the joint is frozen, it becomes very difficult to move the shoulder even if the pain has lessened. Performing work-related tasks can be very difficult. The shoulder can remain frozen for between four to six months.
  • Thawing: The thawing stage, where movement gradually returns to the joint, can take between six months and two years. Throughout the thawing period, patients continue to feel pain.

Because the healing time is generally long, many workers are unable to return to their previous jobs. In extreme cases, the shoulder never returns to pre-injury status.

Risk factors

Adults over forty, particularly women, are more susceptible to developing frozen shoulder. Another group at risk includes people who experience injuries or procedures leaving them with limited mobility for extended periods of time. And, with the joints of an aging workforce wearing down, older workers are becoming more and more susceptible to shoulder injuries. And, it’s possible to suffer from a shoulder injury even when not doing strenuous work.

If an employee experiences a shoulder injury or begins to notice shoulder pain, it’s best not to continue to use the shoulder as this can cause the injury to worsen.  Ergonomic equipment or more frequent breaks can help to mitigate the risk of a shoulder injury.


The primary treatment centers around stretching and physical therapy. In some cases, corticosteroids or other numbing medications are injected directly into the joint. In extreme cases, surgery is performed to loosen the joint capsule and free up movement.

Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Attorney

Claims for frozen shoulder are often denied because it’s easy for insurance companies to blame the injury on arthritis or a preexisting condition, or to maintain that the injury happened outside of work. If you have been denied benefits, please talk to us. We can help you to prove your workplace injury entitles you to workers’ comp and make sure you receive the benefits you deserve.