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The Fastest Ways to Relieve Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain is an extremely common problem that affects people of all ages. The shoulder is a complex joint with many muscles, tendons and ligaments that are vulnerable to injury and overuse. Thankfully, there are many fast and effective ways to find shoulder pain relief. Here are the fastest methods to relieve shoulder pain at home.

Apply Ice

Icing an injured or sore shoulder is one of the simplest and most effective ways to relieve pain. Ice helps reduce inflammation that causes pain and swelling. It also numbs shoulder pain by decreasing nerve conduction velocity. To ice a sore shoulder, wrap some ice cubes or a plastic bag of frozen peas in a thin towel. Apply the ice pack to the sore area for 10-15 minutes every few hours. Never place ice directly on the skin as it can damage tissue. Icing after activities that aggravate shoulder pain can help prevent future flare ups.

Use Heat

While ice excels at numbing acute shoulder pain, heat is ideal for relieving chronic, nagging shoulder discomfort. Heat helps relax tight muscles and increase blood flow to deliver nutrients and oxygen. Try using a heated towel, microwavable heating pad or hot water bottle on stiff or tight shoulders. Heat may be especially helpful before exercising or stretching the shoulder to warm up the tissues. Apply heat for 10-15 minutes at a time, 1-2 times per day.

Take Anti-Inflammatories

Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) can temporarily reduce inflammation causing shoulder pain. They block the production of inflammatory chemicals called prostaglandins. For sudden shoulder injuries causing moderate or severe pain, take the recommended anti-inflammatory dose for 1-2 weeks or until pain improves. Check with your doctor before use if you have stomach ulcers, kidney problems or other medical conditions.

Do Light Stretches

Gentle stretching can effectively relax the muscles around the shoulder joint to alleviate muscle tightness and spasms. However, avoid aggressive stretching of injured shoulders which may worsen tissue damage. Start by doing simple shoulder rolls forward and backward. You can also bring the affected arm across the chest, holding the elbow to lightly stretch the shoulder outward. Hold gentle stretches for 20-30 seconds. Stretching increases blood circulation and range of motion in the shoulder.

Get a Massage

Massage is an excellent way to directly reduce shoulder pain and relax the surrounding muscles. It helps loosen tight muscle knots and release tension in the shoulders, neck and upper back. Massage boosts circulation and endorphin release for natural pain relief. Deep tissue massage or trigger point therapy may be especially helpful for relieving stubborn shoulder knots. A professional massage therapist can target specific problem areas around the shoulder.

Try Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that may ease shoulder pain. Fine needles are inserted into specific pressure points around the shoulder and neck to restore proper energy flow and function. This is believed to reduce inflammation and improve range of motion. Electroacupuncture adds mild electrical stimulation to the needles to amplify pain relief. Receiving acupuncture 1-2 times per week may help relieve chronic shoulder problems. Just be sure to see an experienced, licensed acupuncturist.

Change Sleep Positions

For shoulder pain that interferes with sleep quality, changing sleep positions may help take pressure off the affected shoulder. Try sleeping on the non-painful side, propped up at an incline. Place a pillow under or between the knees to maintain spinal alignment. Stomach sleeping should be avoided, along with letting the painful shoulder droop too low. A contour pillow can also provide extra support and take strain off the shoulders.

Improve Posture

Poor posture is a common contributor to shoulder discomfort, especially from slouching, hunching forward or holding the neck and shoulders tense. Make an effort to align the ears over the shoulders and pull the shoulder blades gently back and down. When sitting at a desk or workstation, ensure your shoulders are relaxed and avoid hunching over. Use ergonomic chairs and keyboards positioned at comfortable heights. Standing up straight helps take the load off sagging, painful shoulders.

In summary, the fastest solutions for relieving shoulder pain at home include icing, heat, anti-inflammatories, gentle stretching, massage, acupuncture, positional changes and posture fixes. See a doctor for severe, persistent or worsening shoulder pain. Proper rest, ice, over-the-counter medications and stretching usually help mild shoulder discomfort improve quickly. But don’t hesitate to seek medical help if home treatments do not provide relief within a few days. These rapid remedies can help you regain range of motion and return to normal shoulder function.