Shoulder pain is extremely common and can originate from a variety of causes. One of the most frequent culprits of shoulder pain is overuse. Repeated movements of the shoulder joint and surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments can lead to inflammation and injury over time. If you have a shoulder that feels fatigued, sore, or painful from overwork, there are several remedies you can try at home to alleviate discomfort and promote healing.
The first step in recovering from an overworked shoulder is to give it adequate rest. This means avoiding activities and movements that aggravate your symptoms. Take a break from repetitive shoulder motions at work or in sports. You may need to modify your routines or use alternate equipment that doesn’t strain your shoulder as much.
Cut back on activities that require you to lift your arms over shoulder-height. Limit the amount of pushing, pulling, and overhead reaching you do with the affected arm. Give your shoulder joint a rest from strenuous exercise until the pain and inflammation subside. Rest allows the strained tissues to recover.
Applying ice is one of the simplest and most effective ways to treat an overworked shoulder. The cold helps constrict blood vessels, slowing circulation and reducing inflammation and swelling around the joint. Ice also numbs shoulder pain.
You can ice an overused shoulder for 10-15 minutes a few times per day. Use an ice pack wrapped in a thin towel or cloth. Some people find relief by massaging the sore area with ice cubes. Don’t apply ice directly on the skin, as this can cause tissue damage.
Using compression on an overworked shoulder joint provides stability and limits mobility, giving the area a chance to rest. A shoulder brace or elastic bandage wrapped snugly around the affected area can help immobilize the joint and muscles surrounding it. This reduces strain on the injured structures.
Compression may be especially helpful for shoulder impingement or rotator cuff injuries. But don’t wrap too tightly, as this can restrict proper circulation. Only use compression along with rest and icing.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen or naproxen can provide pain relief for an overworked shoulder. These non-steroidal drugs work by reducing inflammation around the joint, muscles, and connective tissues. Always follow dosage instructions carefully when taking oral medication.
You can also apply topical ointments containing menthol, camphor, methyl salicylate, or capsaicin over areas of shoulder pain. Many analgesic creams and gels provide a cooling or heating sensation that helps override shoulder discomfort. However, these won’t treat the underlying issue like oral medication can.
Gentle stretching can aid recovery from an overused shoulder injury. But avoid aggressive or painful stretches, which can worsen inflammation. Stick to basic motions that provide a mild pull without overexerting the joint. For example:
- Interlace your fingers and reach forward with both arms to stretch your shoulder and chest muscles.
- Clasp your hands behind your back and squeeze your shoulder blades together to open up the front of the shoulders.
- Do shoulder rolls and rotations to enhance mobility and loosen tight muscles.
- Hang your arm down and use the opposite hand to lightly pull on the wrist to stretch the shoulder joint.
A few rounds of light stretching per day will improve circulation and flexibility without taxing the injured tissues too much. Don’t bounce or force a stretch – ease into a comfortable position instead.
Consulting a physical therapist is advisable for a seriously overworked shoulder or long-lasting pain. A PT can evaluate your injury and capabilities to design a customized rehab program. This often includes:
- Exercises to strengthen shoulder muscles and improve stability
- Manual therapy such as massage, trigger point release, and joint mobilization
- Ultrasound or electrical stimulation to aid healing
- Postural correction and technique adjustments for daily activities
- Progressive return to activity protocols
Following a guided rehab program under a PT’s supervision helps ensure you recover properly and prevent future shoulder overuse. Home remedies can provide relief, but a PT addresses the root cause of pain for more complete healing. This prevents recurrent injury.
In rare cases, an overworked shoulder requires surgical intervention. This is only considered when conservative self-care and physical therapy fail to resolve the problem after several months. Potential procedures include:
- Arthroscopic surgery to trim or repair torn cartilage and tissues
- Rotator cuff repair to mend frayed or ruptured tendons
- Shoulder joint replacement for significant arthritis
- Bone spur removal
- Tissue or ligament reconstruction
Though invasive, surgery may become the last resort if no other treatment brings adequate pain relief and functional improvement. Proper post-op rehab is crucial as well. Always exhaust non-surgical options before resorting to going under the knife.
The best treatment for an overworked shoulder is preventing the problem in the first place. Here are some tips:
- Warm up properly before activities using your arms and shoulders
- Focus on good form and avoid overexertion
- Strengthen the shoulder and surrounding muscles through exercise
- Take regular rest breaks during repetitive tasks
- Use pads or supports for equipment placing pressure on your shoulders
- Ensure workstations are ergonomically set up
- Modify or alternate tasks that aggravate your shoulder
- Learn stretches and massage techniques for shoulder tension
- See a physical therapist if you notice persistent shoulder problems
By keeping your shoulders strong, avoiding overuse, and managing workloads, you can help ward off painful shoulder overexertion injuries. But if one does flare up, use RICE therapy and give your body adequate rest to encourage recovery. With proper self-care and expert guidance when needed, an overworked shoulder can heal back to full function.