Shoulder pain is a problem that affects so many people and can be incredibly disabling, often making your daily life difficult and frustrating. After all, we use our shoulders for almost every movement involving the arms.
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 to the ground or sports-related injury. In other cases, shoulder pain can develop gradually over time due to repetitive damage to the shoulder which is usually referred to as overuse or repetitive strain injuries. This includes conditions like rotator cuff tendinitis, shoulder instability, tendinitis, and others.
The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do at home to help alleviate shoulder pain and inflammation. Treating shoulder pain most commonly involves soothing any inflammation and strengthening muscles. The main thing to understand is that some movements and exercises can be helpful, whereas others can harm your shoulder and should be avoided.
Below are some tips that you can use to relieve your shoulder pain on your own, but you may need to consult with your doctor if you have any questions or if your shoulder pain worsens:
- Anti-inflammatory medications
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) help by relieving pain and reducing inflammation. Over-the-counter drugs include things like acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve). NSAIDs work primarily by reducing inflammation, which is particularly important for conditions like rotator cuff injuries, tendinitis, and arthritis.
Topical gels and creams can also be effective, and they don’t come with the side effects some patients experience with oral pain meds (primarily upset stomach).
- Cold therapy
Cold therapy can help reduce swelling and inflammation in the shoulder and also helps to numb sharp pain. Apply an ice pack for up to 15-20 minutes, up to five times a day. Use a frozen gel pack, ice cubes in a plastic bag, or even a bag of frozen vegetables. Just make sure to wrap the cold pack in a soft towel, you should never apply it directly to skin.
- Heat therapy
Heat therapy helps relax tense muscles and soothe a stiff shoulder. It can also increase blood flow to the area, which brings oxygen and nutrients to the affected area to accelerate the healing process and alleviate pain. Use a heated gel pack, heating pad or a hot water bottle for 15-20 minutes at a time. Sometimes alternating hot and cold therapy is best way to get pain relief and reduce inflammation.
Wrapping your shoulder with an elastic medical bandage is another way to help reduce swelling and pain. Wrap the bandage snugly but not so tight that you restrict blood flow. If your arm or hand begins to feel numb or tingly, or turn blue, loosen the compression bandage.
- Rest and activity modification
If you know what caused the injury and pain, you may want to change the way you perform the activity or stop until you are healed. However, you don’t want to avoid using the shoulder altogether – it’s important to periodically move the shoulder gently to keep the joint flexible and avoid stiffness.
Sleeping on your injured shoulder can make your condition worse, so you may want to consider sleeping on your back or the side of your body that isn’t hurting to avoid exacerbating the problem
Adjusting your posture can help prevent future neck and shoulder pain
It might not be obvious to everyone, but your posture can affect your entire body. That’s why things like improving your posture and your core strength can ease the strain on your shoulders, neck, and even lower back. To start, you need to check your standing posture.
Take the wall test to adjust your standing posture.
- Stand with your head, shoulder blades, and buttocks touching the wall
- Keep your heels around 2-4 inches away from the wall
- Put your hand behind the curve in your back and touch the wall with your palm
Your hand should fit neatly inside of this space. If the fit is too loose, tighten your abdominal muscles, and if it’s too tight, arch your back. Remember what it feels like when you find the right spot. This is the standing posture you want to maintain as much as possible. You can repeat the wall as often as you need to remind yourself what the optimal position is.
Adjust your sitting posture
If you spend a lot of time behind a desk, fixing your sitting posture is especially important.
- Avoid crossing your legs
- Keep your feet flat with your ankles in front of your knees
- Make sure your feet touch the floor or use a footrest
- Relax your shoulders so they’re not too rounded or pulled backwards
- Keep your elbows close to your sides and bent at about 90 degrees
- Unlike standing posture, make sure your whole back touches the chair. Use a back pillow if you need to
- Make sure your thighs and hips are supported with a well-padded seat
- Keep your thighs and hips parallel to the floor
Make sure to take frequent breaks from sitting by adjusting your position, taking brief walks, and stretching your muscles.
Quantum Pain and Sports Medicine can help
If you experience shoulder pain, back pain, neck pain, or any other kind of acute musculoskeletal pain, Quantum Pain and Sports Medicine can help. We understand that maintaining good health and well-being and keeping pain in check means taking care of your whole body. That’s why we not only specialize in diagnosing and treating pain, we provide holistic treatment plans to help our patients get the relief they need and improve their overall health.
Call 469.913.6136 or contact us to learn more.