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Shoulder pain


Alternative Names:

Pain - shoulder

Home Care:

Here are some tips for helping shoulder pain get better:

  • Put ice on the shoulder area for 15 minutes, then leave it off for 15 minutes. Do this 3 - 4 times a day for 2 - 3 days.
  • Wrap the ice in cloth. Do not put ice directly on the skin because this can cause frostbite.
  • Rest your shoulder for the next few days.
  • Slowly return to your regular activities. A physical therapist can help you do this safely.
  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol) may help reduce inflammation and pain.
What to expect at your health care provider's office:

Your health care provider will perform a physical examination and closely look at your shoulder. You will be asked questions such as:

  • Do you have pain in one or both shoulders?
  • Does your pain move from the shoulder to other body areas?
  • Where in your shoulder do you feel the pain? The front, side, or top?
  • Do you have pain when you lift your arm up or away from your body?
  • Did your pain start suddenly or slowly?

Your doctor may order blood or imaging tests.

Treatment for shoulder pain may include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Injection of a powerful anti-inflammatory medicine called a corticosteroid
  • Physical therapy
  • Surgery if all other treatments do not work
Prevention:
  • If you have had shoulder pain before, use ice and ibuprofen after exercising.
  • Learn proper exercises to stretch and strengthen your rotator cuff tendons and shoulder muscles. A doctor or physical therapist can help.
  • If you are recovering from tendinitis, continue to perform range-of-motion exercises to avoid "frozen shoulder."
References:

Greiwe RM, Ahmad CS. Management of the throwing shoulder: cuff, labrum and internal impingement. Orthop Clin North Am. 2010;41:309-323.

Krabak BJ, Banks NL. Adhesive capsulitis. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 10.

DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, et al. Shoulder. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 17.


Review Date: 8/14/2011
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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