Shoulder Pain


Regarding musculoskeletal pain, shoulder discomfort is a common complaint among people of all ages. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including sudden trauma, overuse injuries, and degenerative conditions. The symptoms of shoulder pain can range from mild to severe and can affect one or both shoulders, depending on the underlying cause.

Understanding Shoulder Injuries

Shoulder injuries are common and can be caused by a variety of factors such as trauma, overuse, or age-related degeneration. Understanding the different types of shoulder injuries and their causes is essential in properly managing pain and preventing further damage.

Rotator Cuff Tears

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that help stabilize the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff can become torn due to repetitive use, traumatic injury, or degeneration over time. Symptoms of a rotator cuff tear include pain, weakness, and limited range of motion. Treatment options include rest, ice, physical therapy, or surgery in severe cases.

Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff become compressed or pinched between the bones of the shoulder. This can be caused by repetitive overhead movements or poor posture. Symptoms of shoulder impingement include pain, weakness, and limited range of motion. Treatment options include rest, ice, physical therapy, or surgery in severe cases.

Dislocations and Fractures

A woman with a fractured shoulder with her arm in a sling.
Photo Credit: Valiansin Suprunovich, Canva Photos

Dislocations and fractures can occur due to traumatic injuries such as falls or collisions. A dislocation is when the shoulder joint bones are forced out of place, while a fracture is when one or more bones are broken. Symptoms of a dislocated or fractured shoulder include severe pain, swelling, and limited mobility. Treatment options include immobilization, physical therapy, or surgery in severe cases.

If you experience any shoulder pain or discomfort, seeking medical attention to diagnose and treat any underlying conditions properly is important.

Managing Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain can be debilitating and hindering. Understanding the various methods of managing shoulder pain to alleviate discomfort and prevent further injury is important. Treatment options can range from basic home remedies to more complex surgical interventions.

Rest and Ice

One of the simplest and most effective ways to manage shoulder pain is through rest and ice. It is important to avoid activities that exacerbate the pain, allowing injured or sore tissues to recover. Applying ice to the affected area can also help reduce inflammation, relieving discomfort and pain.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can effectively manage shoulder pain, specifically when it is caused by muscle strain or tendonitis. A physical therapist can design a tailored exercise and stretching program that can help improve flexibility and strength of the shoulder muscles and joints. This can help reduce pain and prevent further injury.


Over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or aspirin, can also be helpful in managing shoulder pain. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider before taking any medication, as it may have potential side effects or interact with other medications.

Surgical Intervention

In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to manage shoulder pain. This can include procedures such as rotator cuff repair or shoulder replacement. Discussing the potential risks and benefits of any surgical intervention with a healthcare provider is important to determine the best course of action.

Preventing Further Injury

Preventing further strain or injury to the shoulder is crucial in managing shoulder pain. This can be done by avoiding repetitive movements that involve overhead arm positions, practising proper lifting techniques, and maintaining good posture. Regular exercise and stretching in daily routines can also help improve shoulder strength and flexibility, preventing future injury.

Exercises for Shoulder Pain Relief

A man leading a group of children in performing shoulder exercises in a cirlce.
Photo Credit: Cottonbro Studio, Pexels

Regular exercises and stretches can help alleviate shoulder pain and prevent further injury. Here are some exercises to consider:

1. Pendulum stretch

Stand with your unaffected arm leaning against a table or bench. Let your affected arm hang straight down and gently swing it back and forth, side to side, and in circular motions. Do 10 repetitions in each direction.

2. Shoulder rolls

Sit or stand with your arms at your sides. Slowly roll your shoulders forward, up, and back in a circular motion. Repeat this exercise 10-15 times, then reverse the direction and repeat.

3. Doorway stretch

Stand in a doorway with one hand on the frame at shoulder level and your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle. Step forward with the foot opposite the door and gently lean forward to stretch your chest and shoulder. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

4. Foam roller stretch

Lie face-up on a foam roller with it placed under your upper back, and your arms crossed over your chest. Gently roll up and down from your upper back to the middle of your back. Repeat for 60 seconds.

Incorporating these exercises into your daily routine can provide relief from shoulder pain and improve flexibility and strength. However, if your pain persists or worsens despite these exercises, please consult a healthcare professional for an evaluation.

Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Shoulder Pain

A middle-aged to elderly man shrugging because of his shoulder with a beachside background.
Photo Credit: Kampus Production, Pexels

Shoulder pain can be caused by a range of factors, including poor posture, repetitive movements, and lifting heavy objects incorrectly. Fortunately, there are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent shoulder pain and protect your shoulder joint.

Maintain Good Posture

Poor posture can strain your neck, shoulders, and back unnecessarily, leading to pain and discomfort. To maintain good posture, sit up straight with your shoulders relaxed and your feet flat on the ground. Avoid slouching or hunching forward, as this can put additional pressure on your shoulders.

Avoid Repetitive Movements

Repetitive movements, such as typing on a keyboard or using a mouse, can lead to shoulder pain and discomfort over time. To help prevent this, take regular breaks and stretch your shoulders and neck throughout the day. Consider using ergonomic equipment, such as a keyboard wrist rest or an adjustable chair, to help improve your posture and reduce strain on your shoulders.

Practice Proper Lifting Techniques

Lifting heavy objects incorrectly can cause shoulder strain and injury. When lifting, keep your back straight, bend your knees and hips, and use your leg muscles to lift the object, rather than your back or shoulders. If the object is too heavy, ask for help or use a lifting aid to avoid injury.

Incorporate Regular Exercise and Stretching

Regular exercise and stretching can help improve your posture, flexibility, and strength, reducing the risk of shoulder pain and injury. Consider incorporating exercises that target your shoulder muscles, such as shoulder presses or lateral raises, into your workout routine. Additionally, stretching your shoulders and neck before and after exercise can help prevent muscle strain and soreness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain can be a complex issue, and it’s important to understand its causes and treatment options. Below are some commonly asked questions about shoulder pain that may help you learn more and make informed decisions.

When should I see a doctor for shoulder pain?

If you’re experiencing severe pain or swelling or have difficulty using your shoulder or lifting objects, it’s important to seek medical attention. See a doctor if you’ve experienced a recent injury or if your pain persists for longer than a few days.

How long does it take to recover from a shoulder injury?

This can vary depending on the type and severity of the injury, as well as the individual’s overall health and treatment plan. In general, mild shoulder injuries may take a few days to several weeks to heal, while more severe injuries could take several months. Your doctor can give you an estimated timeline based on your specific injury.

Can shoulder pain lead to complications?

If left untreated, shoulder pain can lead to more serious issues such as a frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) or chronic pain. Additionally, certain shoulder injuries, such as rotator cuff tears or dislocations, can increase the risk of developing arthritis in the affected joint over time.

Are there any home remedies for managing shoulder pain?

Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) can help reduce pain and swelling in the shoulder. Additionally, over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may help manage pain in the short term. However, consulting with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan is important.