Shoulder pain can be one of the most disabling problems to deal with. Whether you realize it or not, you use your shoulders for many activities throughout the day. Any issue that causes pain and prevents your shoulder from moving normally can be a burden to your daily life. Read on for valuable info on shoulder pain treatment and prevention.
What Causes Shoulder Pain?
There are a number of conditions that can cause shoulder pain. In some cases, it may be a single, traumatic event like a hard fall or sports-related injury. Tears of the rotator cuff (a group of muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder) and labrum (a rim of cartilage that lines the inside of the shoulder) often occur this way. Shoulder pain may also develop gradually over the course of time. Repetitive damage from overhead activity can cause overuse or repetitive strain injuries. These include conditions like rotator cuff tendinitis or shoulder impingement, shoulder instability, tendinitis, and bursitis.
Unfortunately, there are also some conditions where it isn’t possible to figure out the exact cause. An example is frozen shoulder, which can occur randomly. Problems in other parts of the body may be the culprit. For example, many shoulder conditions can be traced back to poor posture. Regardless of what’s responsible, the end result is usually pain with activities like reaching overhead, across the body, or behind the back.
What are some shoulder pain treatments that you can do at home?
If you have shoulder pain, your primary goal is probably to find immediate relief. The good news is that there are plenty of ways for you to alleviate your shoulder pain right now. The key to this process is understanding that some movements and exercises can be helpful, while others can harm your shoulder and should be avoided. Below are some tips that you can follow to relieve your shoulder pain on your own. Be sure to consult with your doctor if you have any questions or your pain gets worse.
Applying ice reduces blood flow, which will in turn decrease inflammation and swelling. Cold therapy is recommended immediately after pain strikes. Ice packs should be applied for 15-20 minutes, up to five times per day.
- Applying heat to a painful shoulder increases blood flow and brings oxygen and nutrients to the area, which will accelerate the healing process and alleviate pain. It is recommended to use heat after a few days have passed since the injury or pain first occurred. Use a hot pack for 15-20 minutes, or stand in a hot shower and allow the water to hit the affected shoulder.
It is also possible to alternate hot and cold therapy. Apply for 10 minutes each, for 2-3 repetitions.
Over the counter pain medications
- Some patients with mild shoulder pain can experience relief with pain medications that don’t require a prescription. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Aleve) alleviate pain by reducing inflammation. This can be helpful for rotator cuff conditions, tendinitis, arthritis, and other shoulder problems. Tylenol is an analgesic, which is designed to alleviate pain, but does not reduce inflammation. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about using these if you are already taking other medications.
- Activity modification: if you can identify the activity or set of movements that may have been responsible for your shoulder pain, it’s best to modify these activities by improving your form or avoiding them altogether whenever possible
- Sleeping on your bad shoulder can make matters worse, so try to sleep on your back or the side of your body unaffected by shoulder pain to avoid exacerbating the problem
- Gently massaging your shoulder will help to alleviate stress and tension in the surrounding muscles, while also improving blood circulation and reducing swelling in the process, all of which can reduce your pain levels.
Shoulder exercises and stretches
- Performing shoulder flexibility exercises may help reduce shoulder pain without causing additional strain. Try each of these exercises, but perform carefully. If they cause pain, adjust your position to see if you can find a position of comfort. Don’t force your arm, or go beyond the point of pain.
Codman’s rotation: Also known as pendulum exercises, this is a simple exercise that can provide relief for most shoulder conditions. To perform it, bend forward at the waist with your back parallel to ground, and allow the involved arm to hang down. Keep the arm and shoulder muscles relaxed, and move the arm slowly, either front to back, side to side, or in circles. Repeat up to 20 times and switch directions. However, if you shoulder is unstable, or is prone to dislocation, this exercise should not be used.
Overhead shoulder stretch: Sit or stand with your fingers entwined in front of you. Bend your elbows and raise your arms above your head. Next, gently squeeze your shoulder blades together to move your elbows back. Hold for 10 seconds, repeat 3-5 times.
Arm-across chest stretch: Raise left arm straight out in front of you. Hold your left elbow with your right hand and pull your left arm across your chest. Hold 20-30 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times. If you feel pain in your shoulder, lower the height of your arm.
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