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Home : Specialty Care : Orthopedics : Non-Surgical Alternatives for Shoulder Pain

Non-Surgical Alternatives for Shoulder Pain

Orthopedic Program

Meriter Hospital, 9 Tower
202 S. Park Street
Madison, WI 53715
Telephone: (608) 417-5365

Learn more about our Orthopedic specialists.

Non-surgical treatments can provide relief of symptoms in some, but not all, people. While different studies have found different rates of success, about half of people who try non-surgical treatments will find relief of symptoms. Some of the variables that can affect the likelihood of successful treatment include the significance of the injury and the length of time you have been experiencing symptoms.

Effects of Rest, Ice and Heat

Non-surgical treatments for a shoulder pain usually commence with a period of rest to allow time for ice to reduce inflammation and pain. It also temporarily prevents further aggravation of the condition. Ice causes vasoconstriction, which reduces inflammation and pain by minimizing the flow of blood and lymph fluids to the area. Ice can be compressed on the affected area at 20-minute intervals for the first 48 hours. Elevating the shoulder above the heart can also help reduce inflammation. Once inflammation has been reduced, heat can promote blood flow to the area.

Types of Medication

Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen are often used for shoulder pain. In some cases, oral steroids may be prescribed or cortisone shots can be given to relieve pain and inflammation.

Other Types of Treatment

Stretching and resistance exercises are often recommended for a shoulder pain once the initial swelling has subsided. Gentle stretching exercises can help relieve stiffness and prevent frozen shoulder, which occurs when pain limits arm movement. Stretching is sometimes done after two or more days of rest. Light resistance training with dumbbells can enhance healing by increasing blood flow to the rotator cuff muscles.

Time Frame

There is no set time frame for overcoming a shoulder impingement without surgery. It may take weeks of ice, anti-inflammatory drugs and exercise to overcome the inflammation and pain. Those who are more proactive in their treatment generally recover more quickly.

Physical Therapy and Activity Modification

Physical therapy is an important step to treating your shoulder tenderness. Strengthening the joint is important to maintain normal shoulder function. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help prevent reoccurring shoulder pain. In addition, learning proper ways to utilize the shoulder and place less strain on the rotator cuff muscles are important to preventing future discomfort. A physical therapist will show you how to use the other muscles of the shoulder.