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Self-Care Options for Shoulder Pain

ice pack for shoulder pain

Self-Care Options for Shoulder Pain

If you have shoulder pain, you want to alleviate it as much as possible so that you can be comfortable each day. There are things you can do at home to help reduce your pain and promote better range of motion. These are all simple and will not require a lot of time.

Over-the-Counter Medications

You can use over-the-counter medications to reduce pain. There are two medications that people commonly use, including:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: These medications work to reduce pain and inflammation. Common options include Motrin and ibuprofen.
  • Acetaminophen: This will not relieve inflammation, but it does decrease pain. Tylenol is the most common option.

There are also topical medication options that you massage directly into your shoulder. These creams contain compounds that can reduce pain and inflammation. You can use them on the shoulder joint and surrounding muscles to find relief. Bengay is a common example of a topical pain reliever.


Exercise is beneficial when you have shoulder pain, but you want to make sure that you are doing it correctly. For example, do not lift heavy weights or do exercises that require you supporting all of your body weight. Swimming is a good option because it is low-impact and it allows you to work your shoulders and your total body. Ideally, you want to get some moderate exercise most days of the week. This helps to condition your muscles in the area and keep your shoulder joint stable.

Work to strengthen your muscles gradually over time. Use light to moderate weights to do this. You want to avoid exercises that force you to put all of your bodyweight on your shoulders, such as pushups. Free weights are the best option and you can increase the weight as you gain strength. Give yourself a day of rest in between strength training sessions.

Hot and Cold

Heat and ice are the two most common self-care options because they are simple and inexpensive. When you use heat, put a barrier between your skin and the heat source. Do not use heat for longer than 20 minutes or else you put yourself at risk for a burn. When you use ice, place a washcloth between your skin and the ice. Ice your shoulder for 20 minutes and then take a break for at least 20 minutes before icing again. You can alternate between both heat and ice if this provides the best relief.

Before you use self-care methods, especially any medications, talk to your doctor. You want to make sure that you are using them properly and that all of the self-care methods you choose are safe for you.

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