Shoulder Pain

There are many causes of shoulder pain, but most cases will only affect a small area and are relatively short-lived. Shoulder pain may also be part of a general condition such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis.

Shoulder pain isn’t always caused by a problem in the shoulder joint – problems in the neck can cause pain that’s felt over the shoulder blade or in the upper outer arm.

What can be done to help?

Aim for a balance between rest & activity to prevent the shoulder from stiffening. Pace yourself and try to do a bit more each day.

Try to avoid movements that are most painful, especially those that hold your arm away from your body and above shoulder height. It’s important to remain active, even if you have to limit how much you do.


Don’t sit leaning forwards with your arm held tightly by your side. This position can make the problem worse, especially if some of the pain is coming from your neck. When sitting, keep a pillow or cushion behind your lower back with your arm supported on a cushion on your lap.

Reducing the strain

When raising your arm or lifting objects, reduce the strain or pull on your shoulder by:

  • keeping your elbow bent and in front of your body
  • keeping your palm facing the ceiling.

To lower your arm, bend your elbow, bringing your hand closer to your body.

Your pain should ease within 2 weeks and you should recover over approx. a 4–6 week period.

You should carry on with the exercises overleaf for at least 6–8 weeks to help prevent symptoms returning. If you have severe pain or your symptoms haven’t improved after 2 weeks, contact your doctor.

Following the self-help tips and exercises here will likely help, but if your pain isn’t improving after about 2 weeks then you should speak to your GP.


Painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen may help. It’s important that you take them regularly and at the recommended dose to help you control the pain and allow you to continue exercising. Don’t wait until your pain is severe before taking painkillers. You can also rub anti-inflammatory cream directly onto the painful area.
You shouldn’t take ibuprofen or aspirin if you’re pregnant or have asthma, indigestion or an ulcer until you’ve spoken to your doctor or pharmacist. Medication can have side-effects so you should read the label carefully and check with your pharmacist if you have any queries.


If your shoulder pain is affecting your activity and is persisting, ask your GP about referral to a physiotherapist.

Premier has physiotherapists in your area.

Premier physiotherapists can provide a variety of treatments, help you understand your problem and get you back to your normal activities.