You can usually do things to ease shoulder pain yourself. See a GP if it doesn’t start feeling better after 2 weeks.
How to ease shoulder pain yourself
You usually need to do these things for 2 weeks before shoulder pain starts to ease. It can take 4 to 6 weeks to recover fully from mild shoulder pain.
A pharmacist can help with shoulder pain
A pharmacist can suggest:
- the best painkiller – this might be tablets, or a cream or gel you rub on the skin
- other ideas for pain relief and things you can buy to help, like heat and cold packs
- seeing a GP if you need to
See a GP if:
- the pain doesn’t improve after 2 weeks
- it’s very difficult to move your arm or shoulder
- the pain started after an injury or accident, like a fall
Treatment from a GP
A GP will examine you to work out what’s causing your shoulder pain. They might send you for tests (such as an X-ray) to check the cause.
They’ll suggest a treatment based on the cause, for example:
- stronger medication or injections to ease pain and swelling
- physiotherapy or exercises to do at home
- things to avoid to stop the pain getting worse or returning
- seeing a specialist for tests or treatment
Causes of shoulder pain
Shoulder pain that doesn’t improve after 2 weeks might be caused by something that needs treatment. Don’t self-diagnose – see a GP if you’re worried.
|Shoulder symptoms||Possible causes|
|Pain and stiffness that doesn’t go away over months or years||frozen shoulder, arthritis (osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis)|
|Pain that’s often worse while using your arm or shoulder||tendonitis, bursitis, impingement|
|Tingling, numb, weak, feels like it’s clicking or locking||shoulder instability, sometimes because of hypermobility|
|Sudden very bad pain, can’t move your arm (or it’s difficult), sometimes changes shape||dislocated shoulder, broken bone (such as the upper arm or collarbone), torn or ruptured tendon|
|Pain on top of the shoulder (where the collarbone and shoulder joint meet)||problems in the acromioclavicular joint, like dislocation or stretched or torn ligaments|