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Symptom Checker

Step 4: Read and complete the decision guide to learn more about your symptoms.

Shoulder Pain

Based upon your answers, your shoulder pain could be due to tendonitis, strain or sprain, perhaps related to recent activities. It may improve on its own in a short amount of time.

To decrease pain, rest the shoulder and avoid those activities that may have triggered the pain. Over-the-counter pain medications, topical treatments (such as IcyHot or BenGay), or the application of ice may also provide some relief.

For some, a stretching and exercise program, ultrasound treatment, electrical stimulation, or alternative approaches (e.g., massage and chiropractic care) helps with shoulder pain.

Here are some other ideas:

  • Use over-the-counter medication for pain such as acetaminophen or low-dose ibuprofen.

  • Adjust your lifestyle and try non-medication approaches.

  • Rest. For example, if playing extra sets of tennis preceded your shoulder pain, avoid tennis until the pain has subsided or resolved.

  • Stretch often. For example, stretch the shoulder through its range of motion before activities that require repetitive movements.

  • Get help or use a stepstool. If you must repeatedly reach something well over your head, avoid straining your shoulder.

  • Use a heating pad on the sore area. Be careful not to burn the skin.

  • Consult a physical therapist or other practitioner. For some individuals, a stretching and exercise program, ultrasound treatment, or electrical stimulation helps with shoulder pain.

  • Use a combination of the options above.

If needed, your health care provider may recommend stronger, prescription-strength medications.

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Disclaimer: This content should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of a call or visit to a health professional. Use of this content is subject to specific Terms of Use & Medical Disclaimers.