Case Study: Shoulder Pain

Overview

A forklift driver had acute onset of right shoulder pain that was preventing him from raising his arm beyond 40 degrees. There was no incident that seemed to precede the pain as it came on suddenly.

He reported no previous history of pain in the shoulder. He is right handed and uses the right arm to operate the controls on his forklift. He initially wanted to see a doctor for the problem but agreed to try the ergoFLEX approach to see if it would work.

We saw him the next day after the problem started for an initial appointment. He showed an elevated right shoulder girdle with the arm bone high and forward in the shoulder socket. He had tenderness in the sub-acromial bursa of the shoulder, a likely early bursitis.

Solution

We went over proper stretching technique and started him on a stretching routine to address tightness about the shoulder joint. A stretch was modified to provide a traction effect on the arm to draw the arm bone down in the socket. Stretches for the chest muscles were designed to relax the arm from its anterior position back to a normal one. He was instructed to apply ice 2-3 times per day for the next 3-4 days for 20 minutes at a time.

shoulder pain

We also did an ergonomic evaluation of his forklift. As it turned out, the controls were set above his shoulder level. This was likely the root cause of his shoulder problem. Since moving the controls was not possible, we spoke with his supervisor and with the safety manager and recommended adding an armrest that would support the weight of his arm and take pressure off of the shoulder.

Results

We saw him again in one week. His shoulder pain was completely gone. He had been doing his stretches 2-3 times per day or more and figured out a way to do a couple of them right in his forklift. He had a return to full range of motion in the right shoulder. The armrest was already in place and seemed to be helping. No further appointments were necessary and the company avoided a soft-tissue recordable claim.