Minor injuries to the shoulder, such as a strain, should settle with time and can be managed at home. A ‘soft tissue injury’ refers to an injury to the muscles, tendons or ligaments of the shoulder and may result in the following:
- Stiffness and loss of function
The pain can be particularly strong in the first few weeks as this is the inflammatory phase of your body healing itself. Typically, these injuries last 4 to 6 weeks depending on the severity.
Painkillers, like paracetamol, will ease the pain but need to be taken regularly to control the pain. Always follow the medication instructions on the packet. Anti-inflammatories, like ibuprofen, can help with swelling, and therefore help you move more freely. Again, follow the medication instructions on the packet and discuss using any medication with a pharmacist or prescribing healthcare professional if you are unsure. You should not take ibuprofen or anti-inflammatories in the first 48-72 hours after an initial injury, and should use with caution after this, as it may slow down healing.
- Protection – Protect the affected area from further injury; for example, avoid the painful activities that may have caused the injury
- Rest – Rest the area for two to three days only. Resting for a short time may help any inflammation or discomfort to settle. However, resting beyond two to three days may lead to the surrounding muscles becoming stiff and weaker which will not be helpful in the longer term.
- Ice – Should you notice any swelling or tenderness around the joint, you can apply an ice pack, or bag of frozen vegetables, to the affected area for about 10 – 15 minutes, every two to three hours. This may help to reduce the swelling and give some pain relief. Please be sure to avoid injury to your skin and wrap the cold object in a moist towel, or similar, to avoid direct contact with the skin.
Up to date guidelines can be found on the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sprains-and-strains/