The shoulder may become painful as a result of injury or disease. Sometimes, surgery through an arthroscopic or open procedure is necessary to correct the underlying abnormality, but often conservative therapy can bring about significant relief of symptoms and postpone the need for surgery. Some of the common conservative measures include:
- Rest: Adequate rest and limiting activities that strain the shoulder can promote healing of the injured tissues.
- Hot and cold application: Application of heat (particularly moist heat) for irritated joints can promote circulation and reduce muscle spasms. Cold application is beneficial for activity-related shoulder pain.
- Splinting: The use of a splint or brace can provide support to the shoulder.
- Medication and injections: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, narcotic medication as well as steroids may be administered to treat symptoms such as pain and swelling. These may be given orally or by injection into the joint site. Other medications to strengthen bones and cartilage, control clot formation, reduce blood cholesterol and improve blood supply may be also be given for specific conditions causing shoulder pain. The shoulder may also be injected with a viscous substance to lubricate the joint (viscosupplementation).
- Physical therapy: Shoulder pain can cause stiffness and contracture (shortening) of muscles, which can worsen the condition. Physical therapy, including manipulation and exercises, is indicated to improve range of motion, strength, and stability of the shoulder. A therapist can also teach you to avoid movements or positions that strain the shoulder.
Other therapies such as extracorporeal shockwave therapy (high energy sound waves) and electrical stimulation may also be recommended to reduce symptoms and promote healing.