August 28th, 2018 by
Like many forms of joint pain, the impact shoulder pain has on your life can range from a mild inconvenience to a life-changing pain that requires regular treatment. Shoulder pain can have any number of causes, from a gym injury to arthritis and even life-threatening conditions like an ectopic pregnancy, so it’s important to know what could be causing shoulder pain and how you can treat it. You might have seen that heat and cold can help relieve shoulder pain, but what’s the difference between hot and cold pain relief and which one is best for you? Read on for a complete guide to hot and cold pain relief to get your shoulder moving freely once again.
When to Use Heat for Shoulder Pain
Applying heat to your shoulder increases the blood flow to the area, meaning it’s good for symptoms that might be brought on by poor circulation. This means applying heat to your shoulder is good for treating frozen shoulder or stiffness as well as muscle spasms and can really help with arthritis pain. It’s also good for relaxing muscles that are spasming. When you apply something hot to your body, the heat receptors in your skin actually partially block out the chemical trails that send pain signals to your brain, so heat therapy is ideal for general pain relief, too. We recommend using an electric heat pad for relieving shoulder pain as they’ll give you full control over the temperature you’re using on your shoulder and will stay on for as long as you need them to. Quality heat pads, such as this Homefront heat pad, are made from comfortingly soft material and can be applied directly onto your shoulder without any risk of burning, giving you a freedom you don’t get from regular heat packs or hot water bottles. Depending on where the pain is, you may be better with a specialist neck and shoulder heat pad, which fastens around your neck and drapes over the top of your shoulders.
When to Use Cold and Ice for Shoulder Pain
You’ve all seen football or rugby players go down with an injury, leading the physio to come on with an ice pack and a cooling spray. But why is this? Well, in the immediate aftermath of an injury, your body pumps extra blood to the area so it can start healing. Sometimes, blood or other fluids can leak out into the surrounding tissue, leading the injured area to become bruised, inflamed, and warm. An ice pack applied to the injury narrows your blood vessels, limiting the flow of blood to the area and reducing swelling. If you’ve got an impact injury from the gym, cold therapy is the way to go! Ice packs are good for reducing any kind of swelling that might be brought on by arthritis or other underlying conditions. The cold has the effect of numbing your nerves, which makes your shoulder less painful. Always make sure you wrap your ice pack in a cloth or towel to prevent ice burns. Remember; use cold to reduce swelling, and use heat to improve mobility.
When Should I See a Doctor About Shoulder Pain?
If you haven’t already, you should see a doctor if your shoulder pains don’t go away after two weeks of cold or heat therapy. If the pain started after an accident, or if you’re suddenly hit with a severe shoulder pain that stops you from moving your arm, you should visit A&E.
Conditions That Can Cause Shoulder Pain and How to Treat Them
How to Treat Shoulder Pain Caused by Arthritis
Arthritis is caused by the cartilage in your joints wearing away, leading to pain in your tendons and ligaments as they have to work harder to move. If you have arthritis in your shoulder, you might notice a pain when you stretch to reach something above your head, or if you lie on your side in bed. It can also result in stiffness and swelling, which means it’s best to alternate between heat and cold therapy depending on how your arthritis is affecting you. If your shoulder is stiff and sore, use a heat pad. If your shoulder feels warm, swollen, and tender, use an ice pack.
How to Treat Frozen Shoulder
Frozen shoulder occurs when your shoulder joint becomes inflamed or worn, meaning your shoulder becomes very stiff and painful. This is more common in people who’ve had surgery or an injury that stops them from moving their arms properly for a while. Diabetic people are also more at risk, and although frozen shoulder can occur in anyone, it mostly affects people over 40 and women. The good news is that frozen shoulder usually goes away on its own, but the bad news is that this can take up to a year. Frozen shoulder gets progressively worse over the course of a few months, with pain getting more severe and your range of movement becoming more limited until your shoulder begins to ‘thaw’, but catching it early can help reduce your recovery time. Use a heat pad to treat frozen shoulder symptoms like stiffness and pain, and consult your doctor or physiotherapist to get some exercises that you can do at home to help improve your range of motion. Frozen shoulder symptoms are often worse at night, so using a fitted electric blanket while you’re in bed will help your circulation through the night. This will help you sleep better and reduce the severe stiffness you feel when you first wake up.
How to Treat Hypermobile Shoulders
Hypermobile shoulders are caused by your joints being too flexible, meaning they’re often unstable and can bend further than they should. This can lead to pain and sprains in your shoulders, and in some cases, your shoulders can start to pop out of their sockets. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for this condition (know as joint hypermobility syndrome) but you can help relieve the pain it causes with a heat pad, which will help you with the stiff joints and sprains that can occur with hypermobile shoulders. Your doctor or physiotherapist will also give you some exercises designed to build up the muscles around your shoulders so that they’re stronger and more protected.
How to Treat Tendonitis
Tendonitis can occur in any joint in your body including your shoulder. It’s caused by your tendons swelling up, usually after an injury to your shoulder. It can also be caused by wear and tear stemming from repetitive motions, such as using a computer mouse all day. Your shoulder will feel swollen and tender for a few days, but fortunately, tendonitis goes away quickly with the proper treatment. Use an ice pack on your shoulder to help reduce the swelling and relieve the pain. You should avoid heat if you have tendonitis – this includes hot baths, heated blankets, and heat pads.
Shoulder Pain and Pregnancy
Shoulder pain is a common problem women experience during pregnancy, and it usually occurs as a result of the dramatic changes your body goes through; weight gain and a growing baby put more strain on your joints, while hormonal changes means your muscles relax in preparation for birth, so you’re more prone to strains and sprains. An electric heat pad is your best bet to soothe pregnancy aches and pains as you’re kept in control of your temperature and can turn the heat pad down if it gets too warm for you. Modern heat pads will come with overheat protection, too, meaning even if you fall asleep with it turned on, the pad will just switch off if it gets too hot. One important note is that an unusual pain in the tip of your shoulder (where your shoulder ends and your arm starts) can be a symptom of an ectopic pregnancy. If you find this symptom occurs alongside other symptoms of ectopic pregnancy, make sure you see your doctor as soon as possible just in case.