Shoulder pain

You can usually do things to ease shoulder pain yourself. See a GP if it does not start feeling better after 2 weeks.

How to ease shoulder pain yourself

You usually need to do these things for 2 weeks before shoulder pain starts to ease.

It can take 6 months or longer to recover from shoulder pain.

How to ease shoulder pain yourself


  • stay active and gently move your shoulder

  • try shoulder exercises for 6 to 8 weeks to stop pain returning

  • stand up straight with your shoulders down and gently back

  • sit with a cushion behind your lower back

  • rest your arm on a cushion in your lap

  • use pain relief so you can keep moving – try painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen, and heat or cold packs

How to ease shoulder pain yourself

How to ease shoulder pain yourself


  • do not completely stop using your shoulder – this can stop it getting better

  • do not do things that seem to make it worse

  • do not make up your own strenuous exercises or use heavy gym equipment

  • do not slouch when sitting – do not roll your shoulders or bring your neck forward

A pharmacist can help with shoulder pain

How to ease shoulder pain yourself

A pharmacist may suggest:

  • the best painkiller – this might be tablets, or a cream or gel you rub on your skin
  • other ideas for pain relief and things you can buy to help, like heat and cold packs
  • seeing a GP if you need to

How to ease shoulder pain yourself

See a GP if:

  • shoulder pain is getting worse or does not improve after 2 weeks
  • it's very difficult to move your arm or shoulder

Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:

  • you have sudden or very bad shoulder pain
  • you cannot move your arm
  • your arm or shoulder has changed shape or is badly swollen
  • you have pins and needles that do not go away
  • there's no feeling in your arm or shoulder
  • your arm or shoulder is hot or cold to touch
  • the pain started after an injury or accident, like a fall
  • you develop severe pain in both shoulders
  • you feel feverish or unwell

These can be signs of something serious, like a broken or dislocated bone, or a torn (ruptured) ligament or tendon.

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

You could also go to your nearest urgent treatment centre.

Treatment from a GP

A GP will examine you to work out what's causing your shoulder pain.

They might send you for tests (such as an X-ray) to check the cause.

They'll suggest a treatment based on the cause, for example:

  • stronger medicine or injections to ease pain and swelling
  • physiotherapy or exercises to do at home
  • things to avoid to stop the pain getting worse or returning
  • seeing a specialist for tests or treatment

Physiotherapy for shoulder pain

The number of physiotherapy sessions you may have depends on the cause of your shoulder pain.

If you're still in pain after your sessions end, go back to the GP. They might prescribe more physiotherapy or suggest another treatment.

Physiotherapy is available through the NHS, but waiting times can be long. You can also pay to get physiotherapy privately.

Treatment from a GP

Causes of shoulder pain

Shoulder pain that does not improve after 2 weeks might be caused by something that needs treatment.

But do not self-diagnose. See a GP if you're worried.

Causes of shoulder pain