Shoulder pain can make life more difficult, whether it’s causing pain and interfering with your sleep or it’s limiting what you can do. Fortunately, there are some ways to help relieve the pain.
What causes shoulder pain?
Shoulder pain is often caused by an injury or medical condition such as osteoarthritis.
What are 5 ways to ease shoulder pain?
Many types of shoulder pain can be treated with the following 5 ways:
1. Anti-inflammatory medication and muscle relaxants
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen can help relieve pain and inflammation. Prescription muscle relaxants may be able to ease your symptoms if you have muscle tension or spasms around the shoulder joint.
These medications may not be recommended for long-term use. NSAIDs can increase your risk of heart attacks and strokes, stomach problems, and kidney damage. Muscle relaxants can be addictive for some people.
2. Cold compress and heat therapy
Cold compresses can reduce swelling and numb sharp shoulder pain. Apply an ice pack, frozen gel pack, or bag of frozen peas to your shoulder for 20 minutes at a time, up to five times a day. Be sure to wrap your cold compress in a towel before applying it to your skin.
Heat therapy can relax muscles and ease stiffness. A heated gel pack, or heating pad can be used to apply heat, or you could also take a mild hot shower.
3. Compression bandages
An elastic medical bandage such as a shoulder wrap, cold compression bandage or ACE bandage can help reduce swelling and pain. Make sure to not wrap it too tightly, since you could block blood flow.
4. Pain medication
Medications like aspirin and acetaminophen can help relieve pain, although they may cause side effects such as heartburn and upset stomach. Topical pain-relief gels and creams may also be used.
5. Shoulder exercises and stretches
These can decrease shoulder pain and increase range of motion. If exercises and stretchers are making your pain worse, stop. Take time to warm up before you start any of the following exercises and stretches:
- Pendulum stretch – Stand and bend at the waist, letting your arm hang straight down. Relax your neck, and move your arm in a circle up to 20 times. You should perform this stretch for one or more times a day.
- Neck release – Sit up straight and slowly tilt your chin toward your chest. Lean your head to the left to stretch your right shoulder and vice versa. Hold each stretch for one minute.
At what point should you see a doctor?
If you’re having shoulder pain and having trouble breathing or are feeling short of breath, this may be a sign of a heart attack rather than an injury. Get emergency medical help immediately.
Otherwise, you should see your doctor when you’re experiencing the following:
- Pain: especially if it doesn’t improve with rest and medication
- Repeat issues: shoulder pain that occurs more than once
- Stiffness: if your shoulder is so stiff that it can’t be lifted and rotated normally
- Weakness: if your shoulder, arm, or hand is weaker on one side
Separation or dislocation: if your shoulder is dislocated or feels like it could slide out