How To Prevent And Treat Shoulder Pain

The shoulder is capable of a versatile, wide range of motion. Most individuals use their shoulders for a good amount of their day-to-day movement, especially if they work a job involving manual labor. Problems with the shoulder can make it difficult to move freely, which in turn leads to discomfort and pain. Three main bones make up the shoulder joint, and all of them are cushioned by protective cartilage. The shoulder is the most mobile joint, and the range of motion comes from the rotator cuff, which is made up of four tendons. These tissues connect bone to muscles. Shoulder pain can be caused by a variety of problems, but issues with the rotator cuff are the most common. Certain diseases can also cause shoulder pain.

Pain Medication


Pain medication can be used to help treat shoulder pain. Most patients don't need prescription-strength painkillers and can instead use over-the-counter medications at home. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen are the most common over-the-counter pain relievers. All of these medications can relieve pain related to muscle stiffness and aches, and they all reduce fever. However, only naproxen and ibuprofen can reduce inflammation. If an inflammatory condition is causing the shoulder pain, one of these will work better than acetaminophen. 

Ibuprofen and naproxen are both nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, which work by reducing the body's ability to produce prostaglandins, the hormones that cause pain. Meanwhile, acetaminophen affects the brain's ability to interpret pain signals. If individuals are experiencing intense pain from an injury or ongoing condition, a doctor can give a patient prescription-strength anti-inflammatories. Ongoing use of anti-inflammatories for chronic conditions is discouraged because it increases the patient's risk of stroke and heart attack. They might also have a higher risk of bleeding and stomach ulcers.

Shoulder Sling


Slings are devices used to help promote the healing of injuries. When part of the body is injured, a sling will immobilize it so that the injury can heal. Shoulder slings immobilize the shoulder when it's injured. This is especially helpful given that the shoulder joint is the most mobile in the body, and you may move it without even realizing it. Though shoulder slings can be used for multiple injuries, it's most common to use them with a broken arm, dislocated arm, or dislocated shoulder. 

Experts recommend splinting any injuries that require splinting before using the sling. The splint should be monitored to make sure it isn't cutting off the person's blood circulation. Splints can help treat the pain associated with a shoulder injury, because they keep the pain from flaring up with movement. In addition, a sling helps prevent individuals from further damaging their blood vessels, nerves, and muscles. If individuals have a surface injury, a sling can help reduce the risk of accidentally reopening the surface wound.

Physical Therapy


Depending on the type of injury or the source of the pain, physical therapy may be part of the recovery process. For mild injuries, there are guides to exercises and stretches individuals can do at home to alleviate shoulder pain and build up their strength. If a patient has a more serious injury, they might work on a physical therapy program with a licensed physical therapist. During the sessions, the therapist will help the patient stretch and strengthen their injury. They will give patients additional exercises to complete at home with instructions on how and when to complete them. 

As the sessions progress, they will monitor the patient's speed and effectiveness of recovery. When exercising to alleviate shoulder pain, patients should stop doing any exercises that make the pain worse. They should also avoid exercising if their doctor has told them to rest the affected area. Shoulder pain caused by a fracture, separation, or dislocation will typically require physical rehabilitation with a trained physical therapist. However, rotator cuff tendonitis and bursitis may not need professional involvement.

Cold Compresses And Ice Packs


Heat and cold therapy are often used to help manage pain. However, there are different circumstances in which patients will want to use each one. Some types of shoulder pain can be alleviated by cold compresses and ice packs, as long as individuals use them responsibly. Cold therapy is helpful for short-term relief from sharp pain. It also has a strong mitigating effect on inflammation. If the shoulder pain is caused by an acute injury or inflammation rather than a chronic condition, using ice packs can help. 

Patients should make sure to wrap the ice pack in a towel or cloth to avoid burning their skin. Packs of frozen vegetables can also work as an ice pack, but these should also be wrapped in cloth. Patients can apply the compress to the painful area for anywhere from fifteen to twenty minutes a few times a day. However, they should be careful not to overdo it. Overusing cold therapy can cause injury to the skin or underlying tissues. It's normal for the skin to be a little pink, but strong redness is a sign it's time to stop.

Surgical Repair


Most cases of shoulder pain can be alleviated through at-home treatment. More moderate injuries might need a doctor's care during the recovery process. However, if the injury is severe, or the pain hasn't been helped through other treatment methods, another treatment option is surgical repair. A procedure called shoulder arthroscopy may be performed by an orthopedic surgeon. 

During this procedure, the surgeon can look at the structures of the shoulder joint, diagnose any problems, and perform a surgical repair of any injuries. A shoulder arthroscopy begins with the insertion of a camera into the shoulder joint. The camera transmits back images in real-time, and the surgeon uses the images to guide their surgical instruments. Surgery might also be used to help repair tears to the rotator cuff or injuries to the bone.


    Katherine MacAulay