There are things that you can do at home to reduce shoulder pain, if the pain you are experiencing is mild to moderate. In addition, if you do have to seek medical attention for your shoulder pain, your doctor will recommend that you use some of the home treatment techniques outlined in this article while your injury is healing as well.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when recovering from shoulder pain is that you need to rest the injured shoulder, and if any activity is causing your pain to increase, you are exceeding your limits. It is true that you should not completely immobilize your shoulder for very long, but resuming activities and exercises too early or all at once can worsen your shoulder injury. As a general guideline, you should not do anything that increases your shoulder pain, and gradually increase activity of the injured shoulder. If you have any questions about how long your shoulder should be immobilized, proper exercises or when you can resume certain activities or sports, talk to your doctor.
If your shoulder is swollen, a helpful home treatment is to ice the injury. Avoid placing ice directly on the skin, as this can cause damage; instead, use a bag of frozen peas, an ice pack or ice cubes wrapped in a plastic bag and a towel. For acute swelling, ice should only be used for about 15 minutes at a time, approximately every two hours that you are awake.
For mild to moderate pain and swelling, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which are available over-the-counter, are very helpful. Acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) are all effective for controlling pain and inflammation. If you find yourself needing a high dosage to control your pain or you need to take more than the recommended amount per day, however, you should see a doctor for stronger pain medication. NSAIDs are generally safe in the recommended dosages, but high dosages can cause side effects such as increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and potentially serious liver problems. An overdose of acetaminophen is extremely toxic to the liver. Avoid taking NSAIDs with alcohol, because the combination increases the risk of liver damage.
If you have severe shoulder pain caused by a fall or a blow to the shoulder, you should see a doctor so they can check for injuries such as bone fractures, shoulder dislocations, shoulder separation and torn tendons and ligaments. If you have chronic pain, inflammation or joint stiffness and trouble moving the shoulder joint, you should seek medical attention to check for arthritis or frozen shoulder. Minor muscle strains can be treated at home. If the pain keeps getting worse over time, or if it doesn’t improve after a few days, see a doctor.