Almost every tenth person in Germany suffers from acute and chronic shoulder pain. Inflammation in the shoulder joint, signs of wear and tear (arthrosis), tension in the muscles or injuries and many other causes can cause pain in the shoulder up to and including frozen shoulder.
What can you do about the pain and tension in your shoulder?
In most cases of acute shoulder pain, an over-the-counter pain reliever such as diclofenac or ibuprofen from the pharmacy is first taken to relieve the pain. Once you have got the acute pain under control, further therapeutic measures and targeted exercises for the shoulder are used to treat the pain and inflammation in the shoulder joint and to restore mobility.
Alternatively, there are also many home remedies and tips for everyday life that help against pain and inflammation in our most flexible ball joint. This includes, for example, treatments with cold or heat, creams, pastes, tinctures and massage oils with active ingredients from nature, the right sleeping position and posture.
In the case of mild shoulder pain, you can first try to relieve the inflammation and pain in the shoulder with natural home remedies. A warm bath with Epsom salts or ointments with the active ingredients from the medicinal plant arnica are good alternatives to chemical medicines and do not put too much strain on the body.
In the following, we will show you the colorful variety of home remedies and the best tips for everyday life against shoulder pain.
You can find detailed information on the anatomy of the shoulder, the causes and typical symptoms of shoulder pain here.
The most common causes of shoulder pain at a glance
The basis of any therapy for shoulder pain is always based on the cause of the inflammation and pain. The possible causes of shoulder pain are numerous - as the small overview shows:
- Muscle tension in the shoulder and neck area (bad posture, incorrect strain, overload, one-sided strain)
- Injuries from accidents and injuries (traumas)
- wear and tear in the elderly
- Osteoarthritis in the shoulder joint (omarthrosis)
- Shoulder dislocation (dislocated shoulder)
- Fractures caused by a fall or accident, for example a broken collarbone
- Impingement syndrome (bottleneck syndrome, narrowing of the shoulder joint)
- Inflammation of the bursa (bursitis)
- Rotator cuff tear
- Frozen Shoulder
- Calcified shoulder (tendinosis calcarea)
- Rheumatic diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia)
- Diseases of the spine (cervical spine syndrome, herniated discs)
- Diseases with shoulder pain as accompanying symptoms, such as biliary colic, heart attack, pulmonary embolism, tumors
Surgical therapies and immobilization of the shoulder are only necessary in rare cases
Although the shoulder should be rested in the event of acute pain, it is still important to keep it moving. Shoulder immobilization is only ordered for breaks (fractures), otherwise the focus is on restoring shoulder mobility with stretching, mobilization, and strengthening exercises.
Surgery is only necessary in rare cases if other measures have not led to the desired success. The more common shoulder operations include, for example, the so-called impingement syndrome (shoulder tightness) or a tendon tear in the rotator cuff.
Promote the healing process and relieve pain with natural home remedies
The treatment of acute and chronic shoulder pain focuses on the following steps: relieving pain, inhibiting inflammation and restoring mobility.
To support the conservative therapy, consisting of drug and non-drug treatment modules without surgery, you can also use various home remedies to support the healing process and relieve shoulder pain.
When is it better for you to see a doctor?
Before you start (self-) treating shoulder pain and want to use home remedies, clarify the following symptoms and possible causes with a doctor (family doctor or orthopaedist) in advance:
- Fall on the right or left shoulder, injuries and acute accidents
- Shoulder joint feels unstable
- Shoulder joint is red and swollen
- Severe, stabbing shoulder pain
- Pain lasts longer than two weeks (danger of chronic shoulder pain)
- Shoulder mobility is significantly restricted
- Pain radiates to arms and hands
- Weakness in the arm that prevents it from moving properly
- Numbness, numbness, paralysis and tingling in the arms
- Pain does not go away or keeps coming back
- Shoulder is stiff (Frozen Shoulder)
Attention emergency: call 112!
- Sudden severe pain behind the breastbone radiating to the left shoulder, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, fear of death, dizziness and/or nausea. suspected heart attack
- Sudden chest pain radiating to the shoulder, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, tachycardia, sweating, (blood) coughing, dizziness. Suspicion of pulmonary embolism!
Overview: The most important medications for acute shoulder pain
In the acute stage, pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory drugs, the so-called analgesics, are usually used first. These include paracetamol, acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with active ingredients such as ibuprofen or diclofenac, which you can get in pharmacies without a prescription.
Sometimes the doctor also prescribes stronger painkillers or therapy with anti-inflammatory cortisone, which is used in the form of injections or tablets.
Caution: Painkillers should not be taken over a longer period of time or only in consultation with the doctor, because painkillers can cause severe side effects. Alternatively, you can apply gentler ointments and gels with the active ingredients to your shoulder several times a day.
Overview: Non-drug therapy for shoulder pain
The following measures can be used in addition to drug treatment for acute and chronic shoulder pain:
- Physiotherapy (physiotherapy, movement therapy, manual therapy)
- Cold for acute shoulder pain and inflammation
- Heat for chronic shoulder pain and muscle tension
- Exercises to mobilize, stretch and strengthen the shoulder and shoulder joint
- Relaxation techniques (progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic training, yoga)
- Massages, acupuncture, osteopathy
The best home remedies and tips for everyday life against shoulder pain
In most cases, the positive effectiveness of home remedies for shoulder pain has not been proven by any scientific, clinical studies. Home remedies are primarily characterized by years of experience that have been passed down through many generations.
In the case of acute and chronic shoulder pain, however, it is definitely worth using one or the other home remedy to support the treatment.
Just pay attention to what feels good for you and what doesn't during treatment and use.
Incidentally, gentle exercises for the neck, shoulders and back to strengthen, stretch and mobilize should always be part of the therapy. Special exercises ensure that mobility in the shoulders is restored and also prevent shoulder pain.
The most effective exercises to do at home to mobilize, strengthen and stretch your shoulder and other treatment options for shoulder pain can be found here.
Cold applications for acute shoulder pain and inflammatory processes
Cold as a home remedy and physical therapy is particularly beneficial for patients with acute shoulder pain and inflammation in the shoulder and shoulder joint. Cold prevents bruising after injury and reduces pain.
Cooling ointments, creams and gels are available in pharmacies, which you can rub onto your shoulder several times a day. An ice pack, ice cubes and compresses (cold compresses) with cold water also relieve the pain.
Attention: Never place the ice pack or the ice cubes directly on the skin, but always wrap them in a cloth, otherwise frostbite could occur.
Heat for chronic shoulder pain and muscular tension
Heat applications, on the other hand, tend to be used for chronic shoulder pain and muscle tension in the shoulder and neck area. Warming creams, ointments and oils have a relaxing effect on the muscles and relieve pain.
You can also use heat packs (e.g. cherry pit pillows), hot water bottles, red light lamps (infrared lamps), warm compresses and fango packs to warm up the shoulder area and relieve tension.
In the case of chronic shoulder pain and muscle tension, heat sources such as regular full baths, steam baths or sauna sessions also have a beneficial and relaxing effect on body, mind and soul.
Tips for heat applications at a glance
- Heat patches, special creams and ointments, fango packs
- Hot-water bottles, heating pads, cherry pit pillows
- Warm baths or showers
- Sauna and steam baths
- Irradiation with red light
Caution: When treating with the red light lamp, you should ensure that you are at a sufficient distance from the lamp and do not leave the heat on for too long. With red light lamps there is a risk that sunburn-like symptoms will develop on the skin.
Application tip (Epsom salt!): With a warm full bath, the addition of Epsom salt supports the relaxing, circulation-enhancing, pain-relieving effect on the shoulder muscles.
Epsom salt is rich in magnesium, which is absorbed through the skin and loosens tight muscles. For the full bath, add 2 cups of Epsom salt to the bath water, relax for a maximum of 25 minutes, and repeat the procedure three times a week.
Mattresses, pillows, etc.: Important for healthy sleep hygiene and the right sleeping position
The way we bed and sleep is also of great importance for a pain-free shoulder joint and generally for a healthy back. A high-quality mattress is the most important basis, but special pillows also ensure that the back, neck and shoulder muscles do not become tense during the night.
If you have shoulder pain, you should prefer small, firm pillows or special neck pillows that provide better support and prevent painful tension. Millet pillows also support the neck and shoulder muscles and adapt to the natural posture.
Home office or office: Provide an ergonomic workplace
Furnishing the workplace is just as important as selecting a suitable mattress and special pillows for a healthy sleep quality. Sitting at a desk is poison for the entire back, because poor posture often causes tense neck muscles, which then spread to the shoulder area and lower back.
With a few tips and tricks, however, you can ensure a shoulder and neck-friendly workplace. Ideally, you will work at a height-adjustable desk, so that you can alternately work in a standing position. Other important factors are also an adjustable chair, the distance between the keyboard and the mouse.
More tips for the workplace
- Sit upright, put your feet hip-width apart and keep your arms at right angles to the tabletop
- Keep at least 50 cm away from the screen. This is how you prevent a cramped posture
- Arms and hands should be positioned horizontally to the keyboard and as close to the body as possible. Ergonomic computer mice and keyboards are also beneficial for preventing neck and shoulder problems.
- Do you use the phone a lot at work? Then swap your phone handset for a headset to keep your head up.
For a healthy back and a healthy shoulder joint, you should regularly integrate exercise and sporting activities into your everyday life. Movement not only has a prophylactic positive effect on the back, movement also helps to alleviate all possible forms of back pain and muscle tension.
If you have acute shoulder pain, you should avoid adopting a relieving posture if possible, as this will increase existing poor posture and painful tension.
Endurance sports such as jogging, swimming, cycling, Nordic walking and special gymnastic exercises for the shoulders and back are suitable for prevention and to build up the entire back musculature and to mobilize the muscles and shoulder joint. Regular training is important for building muscle.
Colorful tapes for the shoulders promote blood circulation and relieve tension
You have probably seen the colorful adhesive strips, so-called tapes, on one or the other professional athlete. Tapes are attached to the painful, tense shoulder and neck area. They should ensure better blood circulation and thus have a relaxing effect on tense muscles.
Even if there is no scientific evidence for this, the colorful tapes are becoming more and more popular. They are available in drugstores and sports shops.
Learn relaxation techniques and avoid stress
Stressful conditions, psychological strain and tension in everyday life can cause a lot of problems for the entire back musculature. From the neck to the shoulders down to the lower back, they can tighten muscles and cause pain.
Learning relaxation methods has proven itself to ensure a balance and harmony of body, mind and soul.
These include, for example, methods such as progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobson, autogenic training, yoga or meditation. Adult education centers, sports clubs and fitness facilities offer courses for learning. A thorough introduction is highly recommended, especially for beginners. This is then practiced regularly in your own four walls.
(Self) massages for the neck and shoulders relieve pain and relieve tension
If you suffer from acute shoulder pain and muscular tension in the neck and shoulder area, the painful tension can be relieved and the muscles relaxed with the help of gentle massages. Massages promote blood circulation and improve mobility.
For a self-massage, you can use a tennis ball or fascia ball to apply pressure to the painful area. To do this, you can lean against the wall and apply pressure with your body weight by rolling the ball.
Attention: The massage should not hurt and you should avoid particularly painful areas. Any further exposure to pain can cause further irritation and intensify inflammatory processes.
Tip: If you have a massage, massages with arnica oil, warm olive oil or coconut oil are found to be particularly beneficial.
Posture is important: standing, carrying, lifting and walking correctly
Improper standing, carrying, lifting and a one-sided posture can cause acute and chronic shoulder pain. Therefore, pay attention to your posture in everyday life and avoid a crooked posture.
For example, it is important that you stand as upright as possible for typical household chores (vacuum cleaning etc.) and keep your back and shoulders straight.
If you carry heavy bags or boxes home after shopping, it is better to have two small bags or boxes instead of one large, heavy bag. If necessary, it's better to go shopping one more time, but don't overdo it or conceit yourself. When lifting the heavy loads, make sure that you squat down and lift the load with your legs and your back straight.
When it comes to shoes, soft soles are popular for back problems and shoulder pain. Hard impacts from the ground should be cushioned as much as possible. A no-go for the female spine: high heels. They are torture for the back and promote a hollow back.
Phytotherapy: Relieve shoulder pain with medicinal plants
Many medicinal plants have pain-relieving, blood circulation-promoting and anti-inflammatory active ingredients and can be used in the form of tinctures, ointments, creams, gels and oils for external treatment of shoulder pain and alleviate the symptoms.
Well-known medicinal plants for complaints of the musculoskeletal system include arnica for muscle tension, comfrey, devil's claw for joint pain, rosemary, hay flower, goldenrod, poplar and ash.
In pharmacies there are special pain ointments with herbal active ingredients that can also be used for chronic pain, tension and injuries over a long period of time.
Tip: In the case of muscular tension and chronic complaints, a warming full bath with bath additives made from tinctures or oils from the medicinal plants mentioned has a pain-relieving effect and is also beneficial for mind and soul.
Health-Promoting Diet: The 6 Best Plants for Inflammation and Pain
Nature offers many plants that have a pain-relieving, blood circulation-promoting, anti-inflammatory and thus health-promoting effect on the organism. As a food, spice or tea, they can provide an extra portion of health. These include, for example:
- Apple Cider
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
The ginger root contains so-called gingerols and shogaols, which together have an analgesic, anti-inflammatory and blood circulation-promoting effect and can thus reduce inflamed joints and muscle pain.
Usage: Ginger can be used in the preparation of food or taken in the form of ginger tea. For a tea, pour boiling water over 1 teaspoon of grated or finely chopped ginger root and after about 10 minutes drink a cup of ginger tea two to three times a day.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
The most important ingredient in the root, which belongs to the ginger family, is curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties and can therefore relieve swelling and pain.
Turmeric can be used as a healthy cooking spice in food preparation, as a tea, or for external use in the form of a paste.
cayenne pepper (chili)
The alkaloid capsaicin contained in cayenne pepper is a particularly valuable ingredient and is responsible for a pain-relieving, blood circulation-promoting and warming effect in the body and on the skin.
Applied externally in the form of a paste, cayenne pepper relieves muscle pain, tension and rheumatic complaints.
Application: To make a paste for external use, you need 2 tablespoons of cayenne pepper and mix it with some wool wax (lanolin) to form a paste. Put the paste on the painful area and you will quickly notice a strong feeling of heat on the skin. This relieves muscular tension and relieves pain.
Application - Tip 1 (tea): For a tea, take 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder and pour 250 ml of hot water over it. Drink a cup of turmeric tea twice a day.
Application tip 2: To make a paste, take 3 tablespoons of turmeric powder and 2 tablespoons of coconut, olive or almond oil and rub the ingredients together. You can put the paste on the painful shoulder, absorb it and let it dry. Then you rinse off the dried residue with warm water and repeat the procedure several times a day.
Unfiltered organic apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar ensures a balanced pH value in the body and supports the flushing of inflammatory toxins from the body. This can boost healing processes and reduce inflammatory processes.
How to use: Mix 1 tablespoon of unfiltered organic apple cider vinegar with water in a glass and drink the mixture twice a day.
Rich in chlorophyll and antioxidants, barley grass provides anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. The active ingredients reduce swelling and relieve feelings of stiffness in aching and inflamed joints. This also improves your mobility.
Application: For a curative application with barley grass, put 1 heaped teaspoon of barley grass powder from drugstores and health food stores in a glass and mix it with water. You drink the barley grass water two to three times a day for 2 weeks.
Great stinging nettle (Urtica diocia)
Because of weeds! The traditional medicinal plant is used, among other things, for rheumatic muscle and joint complaints, arthritis and arthrosis, because the ingredients of the nettle are said to have a diuretic, water-expelling, blood-cleansing, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and metabolism-stimulating effect.
Application: To prepare a tea, take 1 tablespoon of dried nettles and scald them with 250 ml of boiling water. You drink 2 to 3 cups of it daily. You can also use the infusion for external use. Simply dip a cloth in the decoction and rub it on your aching shoulder.