How to Treat Sore Shoulders

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How to treat sore shoulders
How to treat sore shoulders (Image: © Anyka - Fotolia.com, permission granted)

Many health conditions cause shoulder pain, from bursitis to rotator cuff injury to tension. As such, some individuals with sore shoulders require a visit to the doctor and a unique treatment plan. The following tips can help you treat sore shoulders largely due to tension, poor posture and other typically benign causes.

Things You'll Need

  • Heating pad
  • <br>Ice pack
  • <br>Medicated cream (optional)

Apply moist heat to sore shoulders for 20 to 30 minutes if the goal is to relax the muscles. Use a heating pad, warm bath immersion or microwaved damp towels as desired. Whichever method you use as a heat source, try to keep the heat consistent and ensure adequate coverage of the painful areas.

Use an ice pack to treat sore shoulders if heat provides little relief and/or the goal is to reduce inflammation, bruising and acute pain. Avoid placing the ice directly on the skin and limit cold therapy to 20 minutes or less at a time. Apply as needed, but waiting two hours or more between applications.

Rest sore shoulders if movement increases the pain. If necessary immobilize the shoulder with an arm sling. Generally, if pain is substantially affected by movement some medical guidance is needed or if the pain does not improve within two to three days. Also, do not keep the shoulders and arms immobile for more than 48 hours without professional advice. Complications such as a frozen shoulder may develop as a result.

Perform gentle head stretches and neck stretches to treat sore shoulders and promote relaxation in the surrounding muscles. See eHow articles on these stretching exercises or refer to the Resources section of this article for more in-depth information.

Exercise tense shoulders to provide relief. One effective exercise involves rotating the shoulders in small circles with the arms relaxed. Bring the shoulders forward, circle up towards the ear, then towards the back, making a slow, clockwise motion. Repeat 10 times and then go counter-clockwise.

Add a second exercise if you can tolerate more isolated tension to treat sore shoulders. Bring the shoulders up to the ears, tense your shoulders for 5 seconds, stretch shoulders back for 2 to 3 seconds, then relax. Repeat 5 or more times. Other shoulder exercises involving the rotator cuff can be added with caution, if no rotator cuff injury is suspected.

Try an oil or lotion massage to treat sore shoulder as long as the muscles and tendons are not too tender to the touch or recently injured or inflamed. Use gentle to moderate pressure, circular and upward movements, and work from the outer shoulders towards and up the neck.

Consider a medicated cream to treat sore shoulders and gain some soothing pain relief. Consider either creams containing a topical pain medication (analgesic) and/or a form of menthol or camphor for best results. Epsom salt bath soaks or witch hazel compresses may also offer some relief. A pharmacist can provide a good recommendation to treat sore shoulders based on your feedback.

Tips & Warnings

  • Visit a spa or massage therapist if home remedies fail to treat sore shoulders effectively or if you want to increase your pain relief.
  • <br>Keep your head, neck and back in good alignment while sitting or standing.
  • <br>Consult with your physician on lifestyle changes and exercises that may help treat shoulder pain, especially if it reoccurs.
  • Avoid undertaking medical treatment or new exercises for sore shoulders or shoulder pain without medical advice.

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