Pain - shoulder
When you first feel shoulder pain, apply ice for up to 15 minutes, then leave it off for 15 minutes. Repeat this cycle for several hours. Wrap the ice in a cloth. Do NOT apply ice directly to the skin. Then, continue to ice 3 to 4 times a day for 2 to 3 days.
Rest the shoulder from activity for the next few days. When the pain and swelling have subsided, gradually begin regular activity. Consider seeing a physical therapist for help doing this safely.
Ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol) may help reduce inflammation and pain.
Call your health care provider if
Call 911 if you feel sudden pressure or crushing pain in your shoulder, especially if it extends from your chest, jaw, or neck, or occurs with shortness of breath, dizziness, or sweating. Very sudden shoulder pain can, occasionally, be a sign of a heart attack.
If you just had a severe blow or injury and your painful shoulder is swollen, badly bruised, or bleeding, get safely to an emergency room where they will check for a fracture or dislocation.
Contact your doctor if:
- You have
fever, swelling, or redness.
- You are unable to use the joint.
- Your pain lasts more than 1 - 2 weeks despite self-care measures.
- Your arm turns red or bluish, or begins to swell.
What to expect at your health care provider's office
Your health care provider will perform a physical examination, including a detailed examination of the shoulder, and ask questions such as:
- Does the pain affect one or both shoulders?
- Does your pain travel from the shoulder to other joints?
- Where in your shoulder do you feel the pain? The front, side, or top?
- Does the pain occur when you lift your arm overhead or away from your body?
- Did your pain start suddenly? Is it severe? Or, did it begin slowly and mildly and then get worse?
Diagnostic tests that may be performed vary depending on the results of your physical examination. Treatment may include the following:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- A corticosteroid injection
- Referral to a physical therapist and instructions on rehabilitation
Surgery is a last resort.
Review Date: 08/26/2009
Reviewed By: Dennis Ogiela, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon, Danbury Hospital, Danbury, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.