Caring for Shoulder Pain


Some sports, such as tennis or golf, can trigger shoulder pain. But so can work and everyday chores, such as hauling heavy items or painting a ceiling.

Your shoulder has the greatest range of motion of any joint in your body, but the joint's structure and function can make your shoulder vulnerable to injury.

Pain usually is triggered when muscles that help hold the shoulder together [called the rotator cuff] are overused or torn. But shoulder stiffness, arthritis and other joint problems also can cause pain.

Caring for a Sore Shoulder

Fortunately, you can ease most types of shoulder pain yourself. Here's how:

  • At the first sign of pain, place an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables on the shoulder area where it hurts for 15 to 20 minutes. Repeat as needed. When the pain lessens, switch to using a heating pad on the shoulder to relax sore muscles. Use the heating pad for 20 minutes, several times a day.
  • Try over-the-counter buffered aspirin, Aleve (naproxen sodium), Advil/Motrin (ibuprofen) or Tylenol (acetaminophen) to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Do some gentle exercises. Bend slightly forward so you face the floor. Let your sore arm dangle down, and draw 15 to 20 small to large circles in the air with your arm. Do this five to 10 times a day.
  • Avoid or modify activities that aggravate your shoulder pain.
  • Consider strengthening exercises as your shoulder begins to feel better. This will help your shoulder get stronger, which may prevent future problems.
  • Call your doctor if the pain is intense or if it does not go away in a few days. A physician will consider your medical history and perform a thorough evaluation to identify the shoulder problem and design a treatment plan for you. The physician may refer you to a physical therapist for continued treatment, or a shoulder specialist if your shoulder doesn't get better with the treatment above.
Mr. Louis Katz, cardiac rehab patient, works out at the Good Health Center.

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For a referral to a shoulder specialist from MedStar Orthopaedic Institute at MedStar Good Samaritan, call: