Shoulder pain can make simple, daily activities—such as brushing your hair or reaching up to something overhead—very difficult. The muscles of the shoulder are important for normal functioning and shoulder pain is a common condition that can often be due to these muscles not being strong enough.
The shoulder is one of the most flexible joints in the human body but, due to the small joint capsule contact zone, it’s not as mechanically robust and stable as others. This means the shoulder socket, bones, and associated tendons and muscles are vulnerable to pain from overuse, past injury, arthritis and inflammation. Treatment for shoulder pain depends on the cause, which can be determined by a healthcare professional—though there are plenty of options for recovery.
Types of shoulder pain
When you experience shoulder pain, it’s not always easy to determine for yourself what the possible causes may be. Sometimes the pain in your shoulder is even referred pain from another part of your body. Ultimately, you could be experiencing pain for a wide range of reasons.
The majority of shoulder problems are due to one of the following common causes:
- Shoulder bursitis
- Rotator cuff tears or impingement
- Frozen shoulder
- Dislocated shoulder
- Shoulder tendinitis
- Repetitive activities
Conventional treatment options
A conventional treatment for shoulder pain may be perfectly suited to your condition, depending on the cause of your pain. If you are experiencing persistent shoulder pain, you should consult with a healthcare professional to determine the cause—treatment options will then be laid out for you.
A common choice for persistent shoulder pain treatment is physiotherapy. An experienced shoulder physio will be able to determine the cause of your pain and explain what the best course of action is for recovery. Recovery will usually involve your physio guiding you through a specially designed treatment plan, specific to your condition. These plans will often involve manual therapy, supported exercises in your regular physiotherapy session, at-home stretches or exercises, and possibly taping of the affected area.
Dry needling can also be beneficial, depending on the type of shoulder pain you’re experiencing.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication can offer short-term pain relief if you’re experiencing mild shoulder pain. If you’re considering stronger pain medication, visit your doctor to discuss whether this is appropriate for your condition and medical history. Again, pain medication is not a permanent solution.
Cortisone injections are another shoulder pain treatment. They are not just painkillers—cortisone has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and is injected into the shoulder area to help treat a variety of shoulder conditions. As your condition improves, you will notice a reduction in the pain you experience.
Prior to receiving these injections, a thorough diagnosis will be completed—including an assessment of your medical history, a clinical examination and potentially an x-ray or MRI scan.
Surgery may be considered if other, non-surgical treatments have not improved severe pain or restored your shoulder function. It may also be a necessary option if there is extensive damage, due to a shoulder injury.
Massage therapy can help strengthen and stabilise the shoulder muscles, and it can also improve posture and shoulder position. Usually, deep tissue massage and trigger point massage are the most beneficial for shoulder pain.
Massage also increases blood flow, providing your muscles with the nutrients they need. In turn, this will help increase the range of motion in the shoulder joint.
It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional if your shoulder pain is persistent or extreme, or occurs after another severe injury. The sooner you start treatment, the sooner you can get back to doing the activities you enjoy.
If your shoulder pain is mild and due to general use, you could first try some of these effective self-care strategies.
Try some gentle stretches
By gently stretching the muscles in your shoulder and upper back, you can loosen up any tightness or stiffness that may be contributing to your discomfort. Plus, regular stretching can also help prevent tightness and keep your shoulders feeling strong and healthy. Don’t let shoulder pain hold you back any longer.
Take a break
Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your shoulder is simply to give it a break. Resting your shoulder can help reduce inflammation, ease pain, and allow your muscles and joints to heal. It’s important to remember that rest doesn’t mean complete inactivity – gentle movements and stretches can actually help promote healing and prevent stiffness. However, it’s also important to avoid activities that aggravate your shoulder pain and to give yourself time to recover fully. So take a break, relax, and let your shoulder heal – your body will thank you for it.
Get some over-the-counter anti-inflammatories
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication can be a lifesaver. These medications can help reduce inflammation, ease pain, and allow you to move more freely. They are often available without a prescription and can be easily found at your local chemist or pharmacy.
It’s important to remember, however, that these medications should be used only as directed and should not be relied upon as a long-term solution. If your shoulder pain persists, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause and develop a comprehensive treatment plan.
Try hot and cold therapy
Applying heat to your shoulder can help increase blood flow to the area, promoting healing and reducing stiffness. On the other hand, cold therapy can help reduce inflammation and numb the area, easing pain and swelling. You can easily alternate between hot and cold therapy by using a heat pack or a cold compress. Just be sure to follow the proper guidelines and avoid using extreme temperatures that may cause burns or other injuries. With a little care and attention, you can use hot and cold therapy to manage your shoulder pain and get back to your daily routine.
Shoulder pain still getting you down? We can help
If you’re looking for treatment and safe exercises or stretches to do while you’re experiencing persistent shoulder pain, visiting a shoulder physio is a great way to get a supportive treatment plan.
At Integrity Physio, our physiotherapists are experienced in treating shoulder pain caused by various injuries and structural issues. If you are experiencing pain, our physiotherapists can guide you through an effective treatment plan to help you achieve your goals and, ultimately, recover quickly.