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Shoulder Pain Relief & Nonsurgical Treatment Options

If you have shoulder pain, your doctor may recommend non-invasive treatment options. Here are a few common options you may encounter.

Shoulder pain can significantly interfere with quality of life. There are non-surgical alternatives to shoulder surgery that your physician may suggest to help with the pain. The specific treatments chosen, and the success of these options may vary significantly based on the underlying cause of your shoulder pain. Consult with your doctor to discuss the best treatment plan for you.


Many drugs, both prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, are used to treat shoulder arthritis and control pain. Common medications can include aspirin-free pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, disease modifiers, and sleep medications. Ask your doctor if medication is right for you.

Physical therapy

Your doctor may suggest a physical therapy program for your shoulder. Indications for physical therapy vary based on the underlying diagnosis. Your therapist may also work with you to develop a home-based program that you can do from the comfort of your own home.

Heat/cold therapies

The use of heat or cold on our joints may provide short-term relief from pain and stiffness. Cold packs and baths help reduce inflammation and swelling, and may be useful for flare-ups. Heat assists in relaxing muscles and increasing circulation. Ask your doctor about appropriate use of ice and/or heat for your condition.


A key principle in treating shoulder pain is that more pain does not equal more gain. In many cases, fighting through the pain can be counterproductive.

Give your joint a short rest to let the inflammation subside. When avoidance is not possible, try alternating arms, or periods of activity with periods of rest, so your joint doesn’t tire from the stress of repeated tasks.

Mental health

Talking about your feelings with family members and friends, doing mental exercises such as meditations, staying positive, and joining local support groups may help you better manage your pain.

Nontraditional and alternative treatments

Some people with osteoarthritis take vitamins and antioxidants for joint health. There is also a variety of foods high in anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory vitamins. If you have arthritis, your doctor may prescribe other types of dietary supplements often prescribed for joint pain as well.

It’s extremely important for you to consult with your physician about all supplements and medications that you're taking or considering.


This content was reviewed by Dr. John Sperling paid consultant of Zimmer Biomet

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