Shoulder and Neck Pain

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Low Back Pain Relief

How can I take care of shoulder and neck pain at home?

Minor injuries that have only slight pain can be treated at home. If the source of the pain and the cause of the pain are not known, or if symptoms suggest you might have a more serious condition, you should contact your doctor while initiating basic care measures.

  • Rest: Use the injured area as little as possible for the first two to three days, then slowly begin to exercise the injured area. This speeds recovery.
  • Ice: Place the ice in a plastic bag, wrap the bag with a towel, and then apply to the injured area for 15-20 minutes every hour. Directly applying ice can damage the skin.
  • Elevation: Elevation of the injured area above your heart helps the swelling go down. This reduces your pain. Use pillows to prop yourself up.
  • Pain control: Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can help control swelling and pain.
  • Heat: Do not apply heat in the first week after an injury because it can increase the swelling in the injured area and worsen your pain.

How is shoulder and neck pain treated medically?

A treatment plan will be developed after a complete history and physical examination (and any tests, if indicated). Treatment options vary for each condition. Clearly, a simple strain is treated far differently than a heart attack.

  • If you have a minor sprain or strain, then you can expect a combination of the following treatments:
    • Pain medications: It may take several days to settle the pain down using acetaminophen (Tylenol) with or without an anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve). Stronger narcotic-containing medicines are usually not necessary, but your doctor may provide these for the first few days.
    • Immobilization: This may be accomplished possibly using a splint, cast, or sling. It is very important to follow your doctor's instructions regarding the use of these devices, particularly when it is advised to discontinue the use and begin moving the area.
    • Instructions: It's best to rest and elevate the injured area. Continued use of the injured area may not necessarily make the injury worse, but it can prolong the symptoms. In most cases, limited use is acceptable within normal ranges of motion and without weight or strain.
    • Hospital stay: If you are more severely injured, you may need to be admitted to the hospital for further testing or may be referred to an orthopedist (bone and joint specialist) for care.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/22/2016

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