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Swollen Shoulder Joint


A swollen shoulder joint may be caused by conditions such as arthritis or bursitis, or by an injury. You may have other symptoms such as pain, stiffness, and trouble moving your arm.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • You cannot move your arm at all.
  • You have severe pain that does not get better with medicine.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have redness or warmth over your shoulder.
  • The swelling in your shoulder joint does not decrease with treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.


  • Rest your shoulder as directed. Avoid activities that make the swelling or pain worse. You may need to wear a sling for a period of time to help rest your shoulder. Slowly start to do more each day. Return to your daily activities as directed.
  • Apply ice on your shoulder for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Apply heat on your shoulder for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed. Heat helps decrease pain.

Physical therapy:

A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.