Advice and information for patients​

​The shoulder is a complex structure, and pain in the shoulder or upper arm can be caused by a problem with the muscles, tendons and other soft tissues or by arthritis in the joint. Sometimes pain in the shoulder can also be related to a problem in the neck.

Shoulder problems are very common, often have a simple cause and resolve within a short period of time.

How can I help myself to get better?

Minor injuries, such as mild sprains and strains, can be treated at home and should start to improve after a few of days. Using a protection, rest and ice regime initially can help.

There is self-management advice provided below to help minimise symptoms and facilitate the healing process:

Pain relief 

Getting the right pain relief to allow you to return to your usual activities is the key to success in the early stages. Pain killers, such as ibuprofen, paracetamol and gels can help. Make sure you discuss this with your GP or pharmacist.


Keeping your shoulder moving can be important to stop structures stiffening up.

Initially try to avoid the movements that are most painful, especially those that hold your arm away from your body and above shoulder height. You should then aim to slowly work back up to your previous activity level. If exercising does not affect your symptoms or improves them, try to stay as active as possible.

Doing some basic exercises can be useful to ease your shoulder pain and to help it move better. 

Sedentary and inactive lifestyles increase the risk of developing pain and can also delay your recovery. Being active for 30 minutes in your day can make a big difference in your overall health and improve your pain. 

When should I see my GP or physiotherapist?

Many episodes of shoulder pain get better or improve on their own, however you should seek medical advice for the following: 

  • After a sudden traumatic or high impact injury
  • If the pain is severe or the shoulder is hot, red or very swollen
  • If you have tingling or numbness in the arm or hand
  • If you develop acute shoulder pain at the same time as feeling unwell or having a fever you should see your GP immediately.

Specific shoulder conditions

If you have been given a diagnosis, below is some advice to help you manage your specific condition: