How to Treat Shoulder Pain

When shoulder pain hits, certain stretches and massages can help, but if it does not subside it's important to see a doctor. Learn more in this article!

Your everyday activities, excessive strain, or sleeping badly can all be causes of shoulder pain.

Your joints, ligaments, and tendon and bones can be damaged by certain sudden or repetitive movements. In this article, we’ll tell you about how to treat shoulder pain.

What are the main types of shoulder pain?

Anybody, regardless of age, can develop shoulder issues.

Jobs with repetitive movements, the passing of the years, and participating in certain sports can aggravate the situation.

The pain may be limited to a small area of the shoulders or may extend all the way down your arm. In the latter case, it may be due to an issue with the nerves that go through this part of your body.

The most common shoulder injuries and problems are:

  • Dislocation
  • Rotator cuff disorder or tear (tendonitis or bursitis)
  • Separation
  • Fracture
  • Arthritis
  • “Frozen” shoulder

How to treat shoulder pain

These bothersome shoulder pains may appear due to sudden exertion, too much exercise, or working overtime. Take a look at the following tips that can help you relieve the pain:


Since most cases of shoulder pain are due to overuse of the joint, the best thing you can do is give it a little bit of rest.

No exercising, lifting heavy things, or making repetitive movements with it for a few days. You’ll feel better in no time!

However, it’s also not a good idea to completely immobilize it, since this can cause a condition called “frozen shoulder” (where the smallest movement causes pain and doesn’t let you do anything).

When you start activity again, we recommend beginning slowly.

Apply ice

There’s nothing better for swelling and pain than the cold. You’ll numb the area and feel significant relief.

Ice therapy is recommended for acute injuries that imply the presence of inflammation.

What do I do?

  • Apply the compress for 15 minutes, always wrapped in a cloth or bag so your skin does not get damaged.
  • Repeat every two hours until the symptoms go away.
  • If you don’t have a cold compress, you can use ice cubes in a plastic bag or even apply a bag of frozen vegetables.

Give yourself a bath

Moist heat can work well for chronic cases of shoulder pain and when it’s been bothering you for awhile, especially in the mornings or the day after exercising hard.

If this is you, don’t apply ice.

Instead, opt for moist heat to warm the soft tissues (ligaments, tendons, muscle) while getting your blood flowing.

  • You can take a bath with relaxing mineral salts or you could apply moist heat compresses.
  • At the store you can find rice-filled bags that are heated in the microwave.
  • A third option is to take a shower with the water as hot as possible.

These options are more advisable than a heated blanket, since it can actually dehydrate the tissues and increase your risk of injury.


Morning stretches are great at reducing stiffness or tightness caused by a bad posture, sleeping on your side, or working too much.

When you gently lengthen your shoulders, you help increase flexibility in your ligaments.

  • When you get up, sit on the edge of the bed and lift the affected arm back and behind you.
  • Take your elbow with your other hand and press.
  • Another movement that can work is to rotate your shoulder forward and back several times.

You can do these stretches any time of the day. However, remember not to do stretches if you have sharp or shooting pain.

Pay attention to your everyday movements

The pain you’re experiencing in one or both shoulders may be caused by your job or an everyday activity.

For example, if your job requires you to spend hours in front of a computer, if you do weight-training, or if you always carry heavy grocery bags on the same side, this may be the cause of your problem.

Pay close attention to when the pain appears and make connections to the movement or activity you’re doing when it happens.

Oftentimes, all it takes is a small change like repositioning your computer monitor, reducing weight at the gym, or evening out the grocery bags.

We recommend reading: 4 Possible Causes of Lower Back Pain and How to Fight It

Get a massage

If your shoulder pain persists more than a few days, you may want to consider seeing a professional.

Before making an appointment with a doctor, you can try getting a deep tissue relaxing massage that works your tissues and muscles.

Massages are good for light or moderate strains but not for more serious injuries.

Acupuncture may also work for you, that ancient Chinese technique that employs needles to relieve your pain and encourage healing.

There are other treatments too, like chiropractic treatment and osteopathy.

If none of these work, it’s time to see a physical therapist.


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