11 Powerful Strategies You Probably Aren’t Using to Stop Shoulder Pain

11 Powerful Strategies You Probably Aren’t Using to Stop Shoulder Pain

We’ve all been there at one time or another. You wake up one morning and go to put on your shirt, but you stop dead in your tracks because your shoulder hurts like a SOB.

As you start to rub it, you wonder, did I sleep on it wrong? What have I done differently in the last few days? Is this something serious?

Perhaps foremost in your mind is “How can I stop this pain, so I can get going?!”

A Common Problem

Like our backs, we often take our shoulders for granted until they stop working or cause us pain. Shoulder pain is very common, even if people don’t talk about it as much as they do back pain. Some estimates say that 67% of people will experience some type of shoulder pain in their lifetime.

Our Amazing Shoulders

Our shoulders are really amazing pieces of evolution and are the most mobile joint in the body. The bones within the shoulder are held in place by muscles and a great deal of connective tissue, such as tendons and ligaments, all designed to work together to allow the shoulder a very wide range of movement.

This amazing joint is what allows you to raise your arms over your head, scratch your back, and throw that frisbee to your dog. It seems as if everything comes with a price and when you are talking about shoulders, the price you pay for that range of movement is stability.

It’s this lack of stability that leaves shoulders so vulnerable to injury and pain. Even just the wear and tear of everyday living can bring on some serious shoulder pain.

Important Note

Before we go further, we would like to add a note of warning here. Left arm pain or shoulder pain can be a symptom of a possible heart attack. You feel pain in the shoulder that is actually radiating from the chest.

If you are experiencing shoulder pain and have other symptoms as well, such as tightness or pressure in the chest area, an aching jaw, nausea, sweating, and/or shortness of breath, even if these feelings come and go, please seek medical attention immediately.

It is far better to be safe than sorry.

Possible Causes of Shoulder Pain

You might be asking yourself “Why does my shoulder hurt when I lift my arm?” While this is a very common complaint, the answer isn’t as simple. Most shoulder pain is due to injury or overuse. Some of the most common causes of shoulder pain include,

  • Poor posture
  • Heavy lifting
  • Poor workstation ergonomics
  • Sitting for long periods of time
  • Overuse
  • Muscle knots
  • Strains when doing something extreme (such as lifting 150lbs when you’ve never done so before)

You can even strain a muscle when you are sleeping.

Other possible, but not as common, reasons for shoulder pain are:

  • A herniated or bulging disc
  • Scoliosis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Acid reflux
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Shingles
  • Nerve compression
  • Gallstones
  • Certain cancers (lung or bone cancer)

If the following home remedies for relieving shoulder pain don’t help or stop your pain after 5-7 days, you should consult your chiropractor or doctor.  

OK- But How Do I Relieve Shoulder Pain at Home?

We understand. You want to stop the pain and get back to business. What’s good for shoulder pain? That would depend on what part of the shoulder is injured and how bad the injury is.

How to relieve shoulder pain from sleeping wrong? You can use almost any of the strategies here to help stop that type of shoulder pain.

And if you are already seeing a chiropractor but your shoulder pain has returned, this article will be very helpful.

How to Get Rid of Muscle Knot in the Shoulder Blade?

It is not uncommon to develop a muscle knot in the shoulder blade and upper back area. These are very hard, yet sensitive muscles that cause pain in other parts of the body on occasion. A muscle knot in the shoulder often causes neck pain, for example.

Muscle knots are caused by a variety of factors, including overuse, injury, poor posture, a sedentary lifestyle, and stress.

Will a muscle knot go away on its own? It’s possible, but most of them need some type of treatment, such as chiropractic massage or trigger point release, to allow these muscles to relax completely.

While knots can occur in any muscle, they are most commonly found in the shoulders, neck, back, glutes, and hamstrings.

Ready? Let’s look at the 11 strategies you can use to stop shoulder pain and muscle knots.  

11 Strategies to Stop Shoulder Pain

As we said earlier, your shoulder is a complex joint and there are different remedies depending on the injury. We want to talk the best ways to stop shoulder pain at home and how you can get rid of muscle knots, which are a common source of shoulder pain.

Strategy #1-Prevention

The best course of action is prevention, and you can avoid a great deal of shoulder pain by practicing the following tips:

  • Improve your posture. Poor posture can lead to all types of back, neck, and shoulder pain. If you aren’t sure what proper posture is, consult your local chiropractor.
  • Don’t lift anything too heavy
  • Take breaks from repetitive movements, like using a computer
  • Stretch your muscles twice a day to prevent muscle tightness
  • Strengthen your back and shoulder muscles

Your chiropractor can offer valuable advice regarding exercises for strengthening and stretching neck, back, and shoulder muscles, as well as improving your posture.

Strategy #2-Heat and Ice Therapy

Sometimes, old-fashioned remedies are best. Heat and ice therapy have been around for centuries. If you believe your pain came from an injury (such as a slip and fall), then ice should be used for the first 48 hours to prevent inflammation and reduce swelling. Ice can also be a great pain reliever.

After ice therapy, switch to heat. Heat will loosen tight muscles, stop muscle spasms, and increase circulation, bringing some much-needed oxygen and healing nutrients to the damaged area. Don’t forget to check out strategy #11 to help stop pain, and strategies 3&4 to get your shoulder back in good working order.

Strategy #3-Chiropractic Massage

Chiropractic Massage

While chiropractic massage isn’t a home remedy, it really is one of the best ways to reduce shoulder pain, speed healing, and improve circulation to the area. How to loosen a muscle knot, especially deep knots in the shoulder blades? Massage therapy! Chiropractic massage is done under the direction of the chiropractor, who has already done a full exam and knows what your root problem is. This mean that, unlike a spa massage, you are under the doctor’s orders and will receive special attention to that painful shoulder, neck, and back.

Massage is well-known for its many benefits and provides tremendous stress relief, which is sometimes the source of shoulder pain.

If you would like to try a massage at home from a friend, family member or partner, that’s fine too. Have your massage partner use a good quality massage oil and be sure to drink plenty of water afterwards so you can flush out any lactic acid and/or inflammatory by-products.

Strategy #4-Stretching

Easy stretches are often a great way to reduce pain

Easy stretches are often a great way to reduce pain, loosen muscle knots, and reduce your chance of reinjury. Some of the best stretches are simple ones, including:

  • Cross Arm Stretch. Move your right arm across your chest and try to touch the back of your left shoulder. You can use your left hand to give the arm and shoulder a little deeper stretch. Repeat with the opposite arm.
  • Reverse Stretch. You can do this sitting or standing. Reach behind your back with one hand, as if you were trying to touch the opposite shoulder blade. With the other arm, reach behind your head and grab the hand behind your back. Pull gently back and forth, then reverse hands.

You might also try yoga or Tai Chi classes, which are excellent programs for stretching every muscle in your body.

Strategy #5-Epsom Salt Soak

Epsom salt isn’t a salt but is magnesium flakes. Magnesium not only relaxes the muscles of the body, it is also a terrific anti-inflammatory.

Soaking in a warm bath will also help to relax the muscles and improve circulation. Add about 2 cups of Epsom salts to a warm bath and soak for 20-30 minutes.

Strategy #6-Exercises

Shoulder pain relief exercises are simple and work surprisingly well. If you feel more shoulder pain when trying these exercises, stop immediately and consult with your chiropractor.

  1.  Seated Twist. Sit straight up in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, knees together. Twist your upper body to the right and put your left hand on the outside of the right thigh. Breathe deeply for a hold of 15 seconds, then release. Repeat with the opposite side. Do this 3-5 times.
  2. The 90/90 Stretch. Stand in a doorway and hold your arms up so your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Place each hand on one side of the door frame, then lean forward until you feel a light stretch in your neck, arms, and shoulders. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then return to start. Repeat this 2-3 times several times each day.
  3. Neck and Shoulder Release. Sit up straight in a chair. Bring your chin towards your chest until you feel the stretch in your neck. Keeping your chin near your chest, lean your head to the left and right to stretch the shoulders. Don’t forget to breathe! Repeat 3 to 5 times.

If you aren’t sure about how to do these or want more information about how to exercise your back and shoulders, ask your chiropractor.

Strategy #7-R&R

Oh yes! Nothing like a little R&R (Rest and Relaxation) for putting shoulder pain in its place…in the past! If you think the cause of your pain stems from overuse or overexertion, then try giving your shoulder a rest for a few days.

Excessive rest is not a good idea, however. Your body needs good blood circulation to help bring healing nutrients to the area and remove damaged tissue. So, getting some rest, but not too much, can be helpful. How much is too much rest? That is difficult to judge and varies from person to person. Start with 48-72 hours, then begin with strategies #6, 4, and 3 to speed healing.

Strategy #8-Trigger Point Release

Like strategy #3, you can do this at home with a partner or you can have this done while you are receiving your chiropractic massage.

Trigger points are areas of tight muscle fibers that are very painful and sensitive to the touch. When they are massaged gently, they release pent up energy and pain. Have your partner gently massage areas that appear to be trigger points for you. Some can be easily resolved with a light rubbing using the thumbs for 15-30 seconds, others take a bit of work and need to be pushed and kneaded for two minutes or more.

Some people describe trigger point release as a “good pain.” It hurts while they are being released, but afterwards, there is sweet relief.

Strategy #9-Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Of course, the best way to deal with shoulder pain and muscle knots is to prevent the knot from forming in the beginning.

Practice the following to help stop pain now and avoid future problems:

  • Practice good posture
  • Warm up and cool down when exercising
  • Don’t overexert yourself, build up to harder exercises or faster speeds
  • Avoid sitting for long periods of time
  • Do simple stretches twice a day to keep muscles from becoming tight
  • Get regular checkups from your local chiropractor to keep your shoulders and spine in alignment
  • Stay hydrated, especially in hot weather or when exercising
  • Consider getting regular chiropractic massages to keep muscles flexible and healthy

Strategy #10-If You Have Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder

Shoulder pain is sometimes caused by something known as frozen shoulder. This is often caused by underuse, but other times, doctors don’t really understand why this happens to some people. If your shoulder becomes increasingly less flexible, you might develop this condition.

Frozen shoulder makes simple things like brushing your hair extremely painful. Most people simply can’t move their arm more than few inches after a while. Women between the ages of 45-55 are most at risk, as are about 25% of Type 2 diabetics, although researchers don’t know why these groups are more commonly affected with this condition.

Frozen shoulder generally needs treatment to prevent this condition from becoming permanent. You can try hot or cold compresses, take anti-inflammatory herbal supplements, like curcumin or green tea, and use a sling for a few weeks, but it would be best to see your chiropractor ASAP.

With prompt treatment, frozen shoulder can be reversed in 4-6 weeks. Without treatment, this can last as long as a year and for some people, never.

Don’t take chances that your frozen shoulder will “heal itself” in a few weeks and risk permanent injury. See your chiropractor and set up a treatment plan that will give your shoulder a fighting chance to return to normal use in a few weeks.

Strategy #11-Anti-Inflammatories

Injury causes inflammation and inflammation causes pain. Even if there is no injury, if the shoulder is experiencing inflammation, it will cause pain.

Of course, there are plenty of liver damaging, stomach bleeding, over the counter anti-inflammatory pain killers out there, but you would be wise to avoid these as much as possible.

Reach for natural anti-inflammatories instead to reduce pain. Some of the best choices include:

  • Curcumin-One of the best known and most powerful anti-inflammatories around.
  • Devil’s Claw-The root of this plant is also an effective way to stop inflammation.
  • Omega-3-These healthy fats are known to lower inflammation and ease stiff joints as well.

Speak to your doctor, chiropractor, or pharmacist before consuming any herbal supplement, especially if you are taking any type of prescription medication to avoid a possible drug interaction.

If All Else Fails – See Your Chiropractor

Possible Causes of Shoulder Pain

If your shoulder pain becomes worse or if you have tried the strategies here without success, it’s time to see your chiropractor.

A trained specialist in the musculoskeletal system of the body, your local chiropractor can find the root cause of your shoulder pain and offer a treatment plan that can put you on the road to recovery, without drugs, without surgery, and usually faster than you imagined possible.

The great thing about chiropractic care is that they can take care of strategies 3,4,6,8 and 10, while offering you valuable advice on strategies 1, 7, 9 and 11 all in one visit! You will also discover the root cause of your shoulder pain, so you don’t have to wonder what is wrong, how to prevent it, or if it is something more serious.

We hope this article was helpful to you. If you feel it might benefit someone you know, please feel free to share it via social media or email.

If you need more help stopping your shoulder pain, our friendly staff will be happy to make an appointment and check your insurance coverage. We offer same day appointments, or you can make an appointment online by clicking here.

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Dr. Brent Wells - Anchorage Chiropractor
About the Author

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

Dr. Brent Wells has been a trusted chiropractor since moving his family from Oregon to Alaska back in 1998 and founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab – B.S. from Univ. of Nevada, Doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College, volunteer for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Foundation, and member of the American Chiropractic Association. As a chiropractor his focus is on family, including his 3 children and wife of 20+ years, his clinics, and ongoing education.

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