Shoulder Pain Relief: Nonsurgical Options

When it comes to relieving shoulder pain, there are many different treatment options. Success varies not only by each individual's shoulder but also by what's causing your shoulder pain. Care for arthritis pain, for example, often involves a combination of treatments. Be sure to consult your doctor to discuss the best treatment plan for you.

  • Medication
    Many drugs, both prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, are used to treat arthritis and control pain. Common medications are aspirin-free pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, disease modifiers, and sleep medications.
  • Exercise
    Regular exercise, including joint and muscle exercises, is important to improve strength and flexibility. It may lessen pain, increase movement, reduce fatigue, and help you look and feel better. And when done properly, will not "wear out" joints or increase osteoarthritis.
  • Heat/cold therapies
    Use of heat or cold over joints may provide temporary relief from pain and stiffness. Cold packs help reduce inflammation and swelling and may be useful for flare-ups. Heat assists in relaxing muscles and increasing circulation.
  • Injections
    Sometimes hyaluronic acid, a substance produced in natural, healthy joints, is used to provide temporary relief from shoulder pain. Anesthetics also may be injected with a corticosteroid anti-inflammatory medicine (usually cortisone) to numb your shoulder and help keep pain at bay.
  • Physical and occupational therapy
    Physical therapists can work with you to create a personalized exercise program and show you how to use therapeutic heat and massage. Occupational therapists can introduce you to all kinds of beneficial devices.
  • Rest
    Give your shoulder a short rest to let the inflammation subside. When avoidance is not possible, try alternating arms, or periods of activity with periods of rest, so your shoulders don’t tire from the stress of repeated tasks.
  • Mental health
    Talking about your feelings with family members and friends, doing mental exercises such as meditations, and joining local support groups can help you better manage your shoulder pain.
  • Nontraditional and alternative treatments
    Since herbal and dietary supplements are not regulated by most healthcare and regulatory authorities, and the effectiveness of these treatments is not widely supported by accepted scientific research, it is extremely important for you to consult with your physician about all supplements and medications that you’re taking or considering taking.
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