There are a variety of conditions that may produce shoulder muscle pain. One of the most common is an injury to any of the four muscles that support the rotator cuff, which enables the joint to rotate. Another common cause is stress or trauma to the subacromial bursa, the fluid-filled sac that cushions the shoulder joint. Usually these types of injuries become apparent soon after engaging in sports or lifting heavy objects. However, many people experience pain in the shoulder muscles without being certain of the exact cause.
Fortunately, most people are able to relieve shoulder muscle pain without having to resort to surgery. This is because the condition is usually related to soft tissue, which has an amazing capacity for self-healing when given the opportunity. On the other hand, severe pain in the shoulder may warrant further investigation, especially if a torn tendon is suspected. This is also true if there is a medical history that includes previous nerve damage to the region. In any of these cases, it would be best to consult an orthopedist and undergo diagnostic testing procedures, such as an MRI or CT scan.
Banning any nerve-related issue, bone injury, or torn tendon, the first self-help step to relieve pain in the shoulder muscles is to rest the joint. At the very least, one should avoid the activity that led to the injury, if at all possible. If the activity is work-related, it may be necessary to obtain a doctor’s note stating that it’s vital to forego any lifting, for example, for a specified period of time.
Massage therapy may also be helpful. Massage therapists possess detailed knowledge of the musculoskeletal system and how to perform manual manipulations where needed to help ease inflammation. Massage also increases circulation, which will help to deliver more oxygen to the damaged soft tissue. These actions can help to speed healing and bring muscle pain relief.
Physical therapy should also be considered, whether at home on a self-care basis or under the guidance of a physical therapist. In fact, a number of exercises can be beneficial, beginning with movements that target motion range. This can be as simple as moving the affected arm in ever-widening circles for a few minutes a day. Of course, the level of shoulder muscle pain being experienced will dictate how much exercise can be tolerated. Again, if there is any doubt, an orthopaedist is best equipped to provide advice as to which specific exercises should be pursued.
Finally, medication may be taken to relieve muscle pain. Mild to moderate pain can be addressed with an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory, such as aspirin or ibuprofen. However, these drugs are also available in prescription strength, if necessary. In addition, recurring shoulder muscle pain due to bursitis, for instance, may be treated with an injection of an anti-inflammatory steroid, such as cortisone. However, be aware that there are a limited number of times these injections can be given.