Shoulder pain is one of the most common kinds of body aches. Our shoulders do a lot for us, which means that overuse and exertion can sometimes lead to tight, painful shoulders. Luckily, if you’re experiencing shoulder pain there are a number of treatment methods you can do to help relieve your shoulder pain at home .
Specifically, there are methods for relieving your shoulder pain and for helping strengthen and stretch out your shoulders to rehabilitate them. I’m going to cover a variety of both so that you can decide which treatment methods are right for your shoulders.
Relieve Shoulder Pain at Home
From over-the-counter medicine to more holistic and DIY treatment, there’s a lot you can do at home to help soothe sore shoulders. Let’s begin with the most severe. If your shoulder is in pain from the result of overexertion or even injury, rest and relaxation are among the most important things you can do for your shoulders.
Aside from taking it easy, here are a variety of different ways to treat your shoulder pain:
A number of pain relievers are available over-the-counter to help you manage your pain. Anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen may be especially helpful for reducing inflammation in the shoulder.
Rotator cuff injuries, tendonitis, and arthritis are characterized by swelling and inflammation—making anti-inflammatory treatments especially valuable in relieving pain.
Cold & Heat
Cold compresses and heat packs are two common ways to treat muscle aches and pains and you can easily find these tools in your local drug store or online. There are also a number of different ways to make them at home.
Cold compresses reduce inflammation in the muscles and may also help in alleviating sharp pain. Apply cold compresses to the affected area for up to 20 minutes at a time, and never apply the compress directly to the skin.
Additionally, heat packs are great for relaxing tense muscles and soothing stiffness. They are especially useful for alleviating arthritis pain. You can use a heated gel pack, a hot water bottle, or a DIY heating pack.
You can also use an ACE wrap or elastic medical bandage to reduce swelling and help alleviate pain. The trick is to wrap your shoulder so that the bandage feels snug, but not too tight. It’s important to still allow the blood to flow properly, and wrapping a bandage too tightly can cause your hand to go numb or turn light blue.
If your shoulder pain is causing spasms, muscle relaxants are a great way to ease tension and treat your pain. Some common muscle relaxants include Cyclobenzaprine, Carisoprodol, and Metaxalone. They require a prescription, but many doctors and physicians are now offering virtual appointments to help their patients.
Stretch and Strengthen Your Shoulders at Home
To prevent and treat shoulder pain, you should incorporate gentle stretches and exercises into your routine. It’s important to treat your pain while still maintaining your shoulder strength, and these exercises are a great way to do both at home.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind whenever you’re working out at home:
- If any activity is causing additional pain, stop immediately. It may be too soon to attempt certain moves, and you can always scale back your exercises.
- Be mindful of your form. Do any exercises in front of a mirror so you can carefully observe your form and posture. Doing any exercises with incorrect form is a recipe for more intense shoulder pain.
- At present, many physical therapists are offering virtual and at-home consultations to help patients treat their pain.
- Always warm up your body before doing any kind of exercise or stretching—even if your routine is gentle. Do things like gently rolling the shoulders front and back, gently shrugging them up and down, or even taking a warm shower to loosen muscle tension before you begin.
Stretches to Relieve Shoulder Pain
There are many different shoulder stretches you can do to relieve your pain, but I’m going to focus on four highly effective and easy stretches for your shoulders.
The pendulum stretch helps loosen the muscles in your shoulder while helping improve your mobility.
- Stand up straight and bend at the waist.
- Let your arm on the painful side hang straight. Keep your neck and shoulder as relaxed as possible.
- Move your arm in a circle 20 times. Go clockwise, take a short break, then go counterclockwise.
- Repeat up to 5 times a day.
Overhead Shoulder Stretch
This is a great and simple stretch for your shoulder blades.
- Intertwine your fingers in front of you. Your palms should be facing away from you.
- Bend your elbows and raise your hands above and behind your head. Depending on the tightness of your shoulder, you can also place your hands on top of or behind your head.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together. This should cause your elbows to move back. Repeat this motion 20 times.
This is a common stretch for all kinds of athletes. You’ll probably remember it if you ever took a gym class in school!
- Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart
- Take the arm with the affected shoulder and stick it straight out in front of you, then across your chest
- Bend the opposite arm at the elbow and “hook” your affected arm with it
- Use the bent arm to stretch the affected arm across your chest. You should feel a nice stretch in the affected shoulder.
- Hold for 20 seconds.
This is a yoga pose that helps relieve tension in the shoulders.
- Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart.
- Bend over at the waist, bending your knees generously so that you can almost touch your toes.
- Rest your stomach against the front of your thighs to better support your lower back
- Grasp your elbows with the opposite hands and shake your head “yes” and “no.”
- Release tension in the neck and hang there, like a ragdoll.
- Hold this position for about a minute then slowly come out of it.
When to See a Doctor for Your Shoulder Pain
While there are a lot of things you can do at home to treat your shoulder pain, at some point it’s important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis. If your shoulder pain is the result of an acute injury, your doctor will be able to prescribe a more effective treatment plan.
Additionally, you should see a doctor if you’re experiencing any of the following:
- Intense pain that doesn’t resolve with at-home treatments
- Repeated shoulder pain
- Inability to move or rotate your shoulder, or a decrease in your mobility overall
- The feeling that your shoulder is sliding out of its socket
Additional Resources for Shoulder Pain
As a longtime shoulder specialist serving the Raleigh area, I have a number of different resources you can use to treat your shoulder pain at home.
While I’m not currently seeing patients in person, I can still help you with your shoulder pain. Please reach out to me for more information or a virtual consultation.
The material contained on this site is intended for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE– it is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with a physician or a qualified healthcare provider directly with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.