How To Treat Shoulder Pain – Without Surgery


Your shoulder is an amazing, flexible part of the body containing bones that are connected by ligaments, muscles and other strong tissues. The bones come together to form two joints (the AC joint and glenohumeral joint) to provide a strong foundation. Ligaments connect bone-to-bone. The rotator cuff, made up of muscles and tendons, provides stability, while the bursa, a fluid-filled sac, cushions the muscles and bones. When all of these parts work like they should, you have full range of motion to do a number of tasks like throwing a ball, reaching above you or simply scratching your back. But, if a part becomes damaged, these tasks come with pain, stiffness and weakness. 

Common Shoulder Problems

Most shoulder problems are simply caused by wear and tear from daily activity; tissues become inflamed or parts of the shoulder tear and break down.

  • Bursitis and tendinitis occurs when the tissues are inflamed and have less space to move, which leads to pain and impeded movement.

  • A rotator cuff tear is caused by overuse, which weakens this area, allowing it to become susceptible to tearing. When torn, you’ll usually hear a clicking or grating sound and will have trouble lifting your arm.

  • Calcific tendinitis and calcific bursitis are when calcium deposits form within the tendons in the joint. This condition goes unnoticeable in some, while causing severe pain in others.

  • Arthritis sets in when the joint’s smooth cartilage wears away and the bones start rubbing against each other, causing pain and inflammation.

Your doctor will be able to tell you for sure, through shoulder exams and imaging tests like x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, MIRI or arthrograms, if you have one of these conditions.

Treating Shoulder Wear And Tear

In some cases, treatment can be done on your own, or with the help of your doctor. Here are some of the most common ways to treat shoulder pain:

  • Active rest, meaning, avoiding movements that cause pain, like heavy lifting or reaching above your head. Don’t completely stop using your shoulder, just follow the rule – If it hurts, don’t do it.

  • Icing and heat are key tools to curb shoulder pain. Icing helps reduce inflammation and pain. Apply an ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes, three to five time a day. Heat helps relax sore tissues. Use a heating pad or take a warm shower for 10 to 15 minutes. Heat should always be used BEFORE exercise, never after.

  • Anti-inflammatory medications, like aspirin and ibuprofen, help reduce swelling. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to manage the pain.

  • Injection therapy may be necessary for severe inflammation. This includes two medications, an anesthetic to reduce pain and cortisone to reduce swelling.

  • Exercises can help strengthen and stretch the muscles that support the shoulder joint. Physical therapy is also an option.

When To Call Your Doctor

A fracture, dislocation or separation requires a visit to either the hospital or your doctor’s office. But also, any time you are feeling pain that affects your daily life, you should make an appointment to see your doctor. Dr. Samuelson can figure out exactly where your pain is coming from and decide on the best course of treatment. And, rest assured, if you do need surgery, you couldn’t be in better hands. Dr. Samuelson has more than 25 years of orthopaedic surgical experience, plus advanced training and board certifications in many areas of orthopaedic surgery. Schedule an appointment to see how he can help you get your shoulder pain in check.