A man holding his shoulder.

Managing Shoulder Pain

How to Get Rid of Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain is common, especially among athletes and people who engage in physically demanding activities and tasks. Though it’s not life-threatening, it can affect a person’s quality of life, especially if it’s not treated and occurs for a long time. Prolonged shoulder pain can also be associated with expensive medical costs. Treatment for shoulder problems in the U.S. amounted to $7 billion in the year 2000.

In this article, we’ll explain what shoulder pain is, the different types, its causes, and what treatments are available.

Why Do We Experience Shoulder Pain?

The shoulder provides flexibility and mobility to the body. It’s composed of muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones. It’s the most mobile part of the body, and provides the widest range of motion compared to any other joint. Because of our shoulders, we can raise our arms, rotate, flex and extend. These allow us to perform a wide variety of tasks and activities with our arms.

However, because the shoulder is the most mobile, it is also the most susceptible to injury. Thus, when there is something wrong with any parts that make up the shoulder, shoulder pain can occur.

What Causes Shoulder Pain?

There are many different types of shoulder pain. Most often, it’s due to inflammation, tendon tear, mobility issues, arthritis, or fracture. Causes of shoulder pain can be traumatic or nontraumatic. Your sleeping position, injuries, and inborn abnormalities can affect the shoulder muscles, ligaments, and joints that lead to shoulder pain. Common causes of shoulder pain include:

  • Arthritis
  • Torn rotator cuff
  • Bursitis
  • Swollen or torn tendons
  • A pinched nerve in the shoulder or neck
  • Fractured or broken bone
  • Dislocated shoulder
  • Repetitive motion injury
  • Bad posture

The most common cause of shoulder pain, especially for those age 30 and above, is a torn rotator cuff. When it comes to arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common cause that can lead to shoulder pain. Shoulder fractures are most commonly due to injury or trauma, such as vehicle accidents or sports injuries. In older age groups, shoulder fractures are often due to a fall.

Other less common causes include tumors and infections. The causes of shoulder pain vary as it depends on the type that a person has.

What Are the Treatment Options?

Because the shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body, limitation in this area can significantly limit the activities that a person can do. Therefore, you want to make sure you treat your shoulder pain right away. Treatment options can be nonmedical or medical.

You can try several home remedies, such as stretching and fixing your posture, and adjusting your sleeping position. Icing your shoulder three to four times a day for 15 to 20 minutes can help reduce pain and inflammation. Anti-inflammatory over-the-counter creams and pain killers can also provide temporary relief. Sometimes adding compression to the area can help as well.

However, if the shoulder pain is consistent and occurs for a long time, it is best to see our doctor. We also don’t recommend stretching on your own as it can further damage the shoulder joint! Make sure you ask your doctor about the kind of stretches that will help your pain.

If home remedies don’t work, your doctor may offer prescription medications or certain procedures, depending on the cause of your shoulder pain. For example, for arthritis patients, your doctor may prescribe stronger anti-inflammatory medications. With fractures and dislocations, your doctor will need to reposition your shoulder using a sling or other devices.

In severe cases of inflammation, your doctor may do an arthroscopy to evaluate further and manage the shoulder or recommend corticosteroids.

Always rest your shoulder after an injury or strain for several days before returning to regular activity. Overuse, before it has had time to heal correctly, could cause further damage.

When Should You See a Doctor?

People with shoulder pain may try many home remedies before seeing their doctor. However, if you know when to go to the doctor, you will save on costs and quickly get rid of your shoulder pain.

See your doctor if there is new, worsening, or severe shoulder pain. This may include the inability to use your arm or carry objects, a recent history of accident or trauma, or noticeable swelling or bruising in your arm or shoulder joint.

Fever, fatigue, or weakness associated with shoulder pain should also be brought to your doctor’s attention.

Final Thoughts

Shoulder pain is often overlooked because it’s not thought of as urgent as other medical conditions. Some people put off seeing their doctor because they can still manage and compensate.

However, difficulty in moving your shoulder, especially in worse cases, can significantly hamper activities of daily living and eventually affect your quality of life. It is important that this matter gets addressed and that people experiencing it see their doctor, especially if it has been going on for a long time!

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