What Are the Symptoms of a Bruised Shoulder?

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  • Written By: Henry Gaudet
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2019
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The most obvious symptom of a bruised shoulder is a visible bruise at the site of impact to the shoulder. Other likely signs include swelling, stiffness, and pain or tenderness. In most cases, treatment of a bruised shoulder does not require medical care, with ice, rest, and stretching usually proving sufficient for recovery. Over the counter pain medication may be used for tender or sore bruising.

A bruise or contusion is a bleed under the skin, usually as the result of a blunt trauma. The impact causes damage to muscles and other tissues without piercing the skin. Blood collects at the site of the injury, most often visible as a purple discoloration of the skin. Deep bruising, where the site of the bleeding is not near the surface and no visible bruise appears on the skin, is another possibility.

These types of injuries are usually tender and sensitive to the touch. Bruises to joints such as shoulders may also cause pain when in certain positions, potentially limiting the range of motion. A patient may also experience a constant pain from an injured shoulder, a pain which may intensify with touch or motion. Some severe shoulder bruising may cause pain that radiates down the arm.


Swelling is another likely symptom for a bruised shoulder. The body responds to the trauma by flooding the site of the injury with fluid in an attempt to pad and protect the area. This swelling may make the joint stiff, further restricting the range of motion. Bruising may be minimized by applying pressure immediately after the injury. As with other bleeding, pressure helps to slow the flow of blood until clotting can block further bleeding; less bleeding is likely to result in a smaller, less painful bruise.

Ice is frequently recommended for a bruised shoulder. Icing an injury can reduce pain and swelling for a quicker, more comfortable recovery. Loose ice cubes or ice packs should not be placed directly on the skin, but should instead be wrapped in a towel, and should only be used for 20 minutes at a time.

Stretching is also important in treating a bruised shoulder, as failing to stretch the shoulder with gentle exercise can lead to stiffness, significantly extending the recovery period. Regularly stretching the shoulder through its full range of motion will maintain flexibility. Most often, shoulder bruising is a minor injury, and medical attention is not required. Over the counter pain relievers are typically able to manage pain. Patients experiencing severe symptoms, or symptoms that do not improve may have a more serious injury and should seek professional medical attention.


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