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Nonsurgical Treatment Options for Shoulder Impingement

Rest is key to healing your shoulder. If an activity hurts, don’t do it. Otherwise, you may prevent healing and increase pain. Your shoulder needs active rest. This means avoiding overhead movements and activities that cause pain. But DO NOT stop using your shoulder completely. This can cause it to stiffen or “freeze.” In addition to rest, impingement can be treated a number of ways. Your health care provider can help you find which of these is best for you.

Image of woman lying down with icepack on her shoulder

Image Ice

Ice reduces inflammation and relieves pain. Apply an ice pack for about 15 minutes, 3 times a day. You can also use a bag of frozen peas instead of an ice pack. A pillow placed under your arm may help make you more comfortable.

Note: Don’t put the cold item directly on your skin. Place it on top of your shirt, or wrap it in a thin towel or washcloth.

Image of man holding icepack on his shoulder

Image Heat

Heat may soothe aching muscles, but it won’t reduce inflammation. Use a heating pad or take a warm shower or bath. Do this for 15 minutes at a time.

Note: Avoid heat when pain is constant. Heat is best when used for warming up before an activity. You can also alternate ice and heat.

Image of man taking pill

Image Medication

To relieve pain and inflammation, try over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Or, your doctor may prescribe medications. Ask how and when to take your medication. Be sure to follow all instructions you’re given.

Image of man getting electrical stimulation on shoulder Image Electrical Stimulation

Electrical stimulation can help reduce pain and swelling. Your health care provider attaches small pads to your shoulder. A mild electric current then flows into your shoulder. You may feel tingling, but not pain.

Image of woman getting ultrasound treatment on her shoulder Image Ultrasound

Ultrasound can help reduce pain. First a slick gel or medicated cream is applied to your shoulder. Then your health care provider places a small device over the area. The device uses sound waves to loosen shoulder tightness. This treatment is pain-free.

A physical therapist can also help you with exercises specific for your condition.

Image of shoulder being injected Image Injection Therapy

Injection therapy may be used to help diagnose your problem. It may also be used to reduce pain. The injection typically includes two medications. One is an anesthetic to numb the shoulder. The other is cortisone to help reduce painful swelling. It can take from a few hours to a couple of days before the injection helps. Talk to your health care provider about the possible risks and benefits of this therapy.


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