shoulder pain

Home Remedies for Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain can be one of the most disabling problems to deal with. Whether you realize it or not, you use your shoulder pretty frequently throughout most days, as it permits practically any movement that involves your arms. This is why any issue that causes pain and prevents your shoulder from moving normally can wind up being a burden to your daily life.

There are a number of conditions that can be responsible for shoulder pain, each of which may develop from a unique order of events. In some cases, the cause may be a single, traumatic event like a hard fall to the ground or sports-related injury. Tears of the rotator cuff (a group of muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder) and labrum (a rim of cartilage that lines the inside of the shoulder) often occur through this mechanism. Other cases of shoulder pain may develop gradually over the course of time due to repeated damage to the shoulder from overhead activities, which are usually referred to as overuse or repetitive strain injuries. These include conditions like rotator cuff tendinitis or shoulder impingement, and shoulder instability, tendinitis, and bursitis.

Unfortunately, there are also some conditions—like frozen shoulder—and cases of shoulder pain in which it’s not possible to figure out the exact cause, and sometimes problems in other parts of the body may be the culprit of pain in the shoulder. But regardless of what’s responsible, the end result for most people with shoulder pain is the same: daily challenges with any activities that require reaching overhead, across the body, or for far-away items. If you count yourself as one of the many who is impacted by shoulder pain and you deal with these issues regularly, a primary goal of yours is probably finding immediate relief.


The most common cause of shoulder pain occurs when rotator cuff tendons become trapped under the bony area in the shoulder. The tendons become inflamed or damaged. This condition is called rotator cuff tendinitis or bursitis.

Shoulder pain may also be caused by:

  • Arthritis in the shoulder joint
  • Bone spurs in the shoulder area
  • Bursitis, which is inflammation of a fluid-filled sac (bursa) that normally protects the joint and helps it move smoothly
  • Broken shoulder bone
  • Dislocation of the shoulder
  • Shoulder separation
  • Frozen shoulder, which occurs when the muscles, tendons, and ligaments inside the shoulder become stiff, making movement difficult and painful
  • Overuse or injury of nearby tendons, such as the bicep muscles of the arms
  • Tears of the rotator cuff tendons
  • Poor shoulder posture and mechanics

Sore shoulder remedies

This common joint problem can affect anyone. Shoulder pain may involve the cartilage, ligaments, muscles, nerves, or tendons. It can also include the shoulder blade, neck, arm, and hand.

Early treatment is important. It can take eight weeks or longer for shoulder pain to heal. At-home shoulder pain remedies may help recovery.

Easy remedies at home

Treating shoulder pain often involves soothing inflammation (swelling and redness) and strengthening muscles. Here are several ways you can take care of yourself and relieve shoulder pain.

Anti-inflammatory medication

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) help to relieve pain and lower inflammation. Over-the-counter drugs include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Reducing inflammation is important in rotator cuff injuries, tendonitis and arthritis, and other shoulder injuries.

Cold compress

Cold compresses can help reduce swelling in the shoulder. Cooling also helps to numb sharp pain. Apply an ice pack for up to 20 minutes, up to five times a day. Use a frozen gel pack, ice cubes in a plastic bag, or a bag of frozen peas. Wrap the cold pack in a soft towel. Do not apply a cold pack directly to skin.


Wrap the shoulder with an elastic medical bandage to help reduce swelling and pain. Use a cold compression bandage or a regular ACE bandage. You can also get a shoulder wrap from a pharmacy. Wrap it snugly but not too tight. You don’t want to block blood flow. If your arm or hand begins to feel numb or tingly, or turn blue, loosen the compression bandage.

Heat therapy

Heat helps to relax tense muscles and soothe a stiff shoulder. It can help with muscle pain and arthritis in the shoulder. Use a heated gel pack, heating pad or a hot water bottle..

Muscle relaxants

Muscle relaxants may help treat pain if you have muscle tension or spasms around the shoulder joint. Common muscle relaxants include cyclobenzaprine, tizanidine, and baclofen. You will need a prescription from your doctor.

Remember that muscle relaxants cause drowsiness and shouldn’t be taken if you’re driving or operating machinery.

Pain medication

Medications such as acetaminophen and aspirin can help ease pain. This helps you cope with the injury and get better sleep as you recover.

Pain medications can cause side effects such as stomach upset and heartburn. Talk to a doctor if you are taking them for longer than four weeks.

You can also try topical pain-relief gels and creams, which don’t have the same side effects as oral pain meds. Diclofenac is one medication approved in two forms by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for osteoarthritis treatment. It’s available as 1 percent diclofenac sodium gel and 1.5 percent diclofenac sodium solution.

Rest and activity modification

Stop or change the activity that may have caused the shoulder pain. It’s important to move the shoulder gently. This helps to keep the shoulder muscles strong and flexible.

Tips for these exercises

Do these simple exercises three to six times per week to relieve shoulder pain. Start with a 10-minute routine and gradually increase the duration as you get stronger and more flexible.

While doing these exercises, focus on relaxing and releasing any tension in your shoulders and anywhere else you feel tightness.

Stretch only to the degree that is comfortable on any given day. Don’t push yourself beyond your limits, and discontinue the exercises if you experience pain that goes beyond mild discomfort.

Across-the-chest stretch

This exercise helps increase flexibility and range of motion in your shoulder joint and the surrounding muscles. When doing this exercise, lower your arm if you feel any pain in your shoulder.

  1. Bring your right arm across your chest.
  2. Place it in the crease of your left elbow or use your left hand to support your arm.
  3. Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.
  5. Do each side 3–5 times.

To deepen the stretch, lift your arm to shoulder height.

Neck release

This exercise is a gentle way to loosen tension in your neck and shoulders.

  1. Lower your chin toward your chest. You’ll feel a stretch along the back of your neck.
  2. Gently tilt your head to the left to stretch your right shoulder.
  3. Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.
  5. Do each side 3–5 times.

To deepen this stretch:

  1. Place 1 hand on your shoulder and 1 hand above your ear to gently guide the movement.
  2. Lower your chin toward your chest. You’ll feel a stretch along the back of your neck.
  3. Gently tilt your head to the left to stretch your right shoulder.
  4. Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side.
  6. Do each side 3–5 times.

Chest expansion

This exercise promotes flexibility and range of motion in your shoulders.

  1. While standing, hold an exercise band, strap, or towel behind your back with both hands.
  2. Broaden across your chest as your move your shoulder blades toward each other.
  3. Lift your chin and look up toward the ceiling.
  4. Hold for up to 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat 3–5 times.

To deepen the stretch, place your hands closer together along the towel or strap.

Eagle arms spinal rolls

This exercise stretches your shoulder muscles. If the arm position is uncomfortable, do this exercise by holding opposite shoulders.

  1. While seated, extend your arms out to the sides.
  2. Cross your elbows in front of your body with your right arm on top.
  3. Bend your elbows, placing the backs of your forearms and hands together.
  4. Reach your right hand around to bring your palms together.
  5. Hold this position for 15 seconds.
  6. On an exhale, roll your spine as your draw your elbows in toward your chest.
  7. On an inhale, open your chest and lift your arms.
  8. Continue this movement for 1 minute.
  9. Repeat on the opposite side.

Seated twist

This exercise stretches your shoulders and neck. Keep your hips facing forward during this exercise. Allow the twist to start in your lower back.

  1. Sit in a chair with your ankles directly under your knees.
  2. Twist your upper body to the right, bringing the back of your left hand to your thigh.
  3. Place your right hand down wherever it’s comfortable.
  4. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat on the left side.
  6. Do each side 3–5 times.

Shoulder circles

This exercise is good for warming up your shoulder joints and increasing flexibility.

  1. Stand with your left hand on the back of a chair.
  2. Allow your right hand to hang down.
  3. Circle your right hand 5 times in each direction.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.
  5. Do this 2–3 times per day.

Doorway shoulder stretch

This stretch opens your chest and strengthens your shoulders.

  1. Stand in a doorway with your elbows and arms forming a 90-degree angle.
  2. Step your right foot forward as you press your palms into the sides of the door frame.
  3. Lean forward and engage your core. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat the stretch with your left foot forward.
  5. Do each side 2–3 times.

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Downward Dog Pose

This inversion pose strengthens and stretches the muscles in your shoulders and back.

  1. Start on your hands and knees. Press into your hands to lift your hips up toward the ceiling.
  2. Maintain a slight bend in your knees as you press your weight evenly into your hands and feet.
  3. Keeping your spine straight, bring your head toward your feet so that your shoulders are flexed overhead.
  4. Hold this pose for up to 1 minute.

Child’s Pose

This restorative pose helps relieve tension in your back, shoulders, and neck. Place a cushion under your forehead, chest, or legs for support.

  1. From Downward Dog Pose, bring your big toes together and your knees slightly wider than your hips.
  2. Sink your hips back onto your heels and extend your arms in front of you.
  3. Allow your chest to fall heavy toward the floor, relaxing your spine and shoulders.
  4. Stay in this pose for up to 5 minutes.

Thread the needle

This pose relieves tightness in your chest, shoulders, and upper back. Place a cushion or block under your head or shoulder for support.

  1. Start on your hands and knees. Lift your right hand up toward the ceiling with your palm facing away from your body.
  2. Lower your arm to bring it under your chest and over to the left side of your body with your palm facing up.
  3. Activate your right shoulder and arm to avoid collapsing into this area.
  4. Keep your left hand on the floor for support, lift it toward the ceiling, or bring it around to the inside of your right thigh.
  5. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds.
  6. Relax in Child’s Pose before repeating this stretch on the left side.

How to prevent shoulder pain

In addition to doing these exercises, you can prevent shoulder pain by following a few simple tips and guidelines:

  • Practice good posture and avoid slouching or hunching over while sitting, standing, and doing your daily activities.
  • Pay attention to how you’re carrying your body throughout the day and make adjustments as necessary.
  • Get plenty of rest and take time off from any activity that causes pain.

Take care when you do activities that involve reaching for something overhead, carrying heavy objects, or bending forward. If you have to do these activities as part of your job, decide how you can move your body to minimize discomfort.

If you play sports that cause shoulder pain, make sure you’re using proper form and technique.

When to see a doctor

You’ll need treatment along with home remedies if you have a serious shoulder injury. See your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • pain: especially if the pain does not get better with rest and medication
  • repeat problems: if you have shoulder pain more than once
  • stiffness: if you can’t lift and rotate your arm normally
  • weakness: if your shoulder, arm, or hand is weaker than the uninjured side
  • separated or dislocated shoulder: if you have a dislocation or if it feels like your shoulder could slide out

Bottom Line

While shoulder pain is common, it can be prevented and treated. Do these exercises on a regular basis to relieve and prevent shoulder pain.

You can also try home remedies to treat shoulder pain on your own. Continuing the exercises and treatments even after you feel better will help prevent the pain from coming back.

Home remedies for shoulder pain can help to heal your shoulder. They can also lower your risk of injuring the shoulder again. Simple at-home exercises combined with medications and doctors’ guidance can help strengthen your shoulder joint and soothe pain.

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