The shoulder is an incredible joint that offers excellent mobility and a free range of movement.
It’s precisely thanks to the shoulders that we can move our arms up, down, to the side, and everywhere in between.
But the amazing shoulder mobility also comes at a cost: greater instability and a higher risk of aches and injuries.
To that end, we’ve put together this post to look at sore shoulders, what can cause them, and what we can do about it.
Common Causes of Sore Shoulders
The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint, which involves three bones: the humerus (upper arm bone), scapula (shoulder blade), and clavicle. Thanks to its anatomy, the shoulder possesses incredible mobility, and the rotator cuff and deltoid muscles allow for movement to happen.
Sore shoulders are somewhat common because of that free range of movement, lack of stability (like you would expect from a joint like the elbow or knee), and a tight package of bones, muscles, and tendons.
A sore shoulder could refer to many things. For example:
- Impingement - where a tendon gets pinched between bones and other tissues or rubs against them
- Rotator cuff strain or tear
- Overtraining the deltoid muscles
- Cartilage tear - injuring the rubbery padding that goes around the shoulder joint as a result of a fall or repeated shoulder movement
Anatomically, some people are more predisposed to shoulder injuries than others. Other factors such as occupation, training style, and level of exertion also play a significant role.
Diagnosing a sore shoulder can be difficult because of the different injury types and reasons for occurring. In many cases, a sore shoulder heals and stops hurting within a couple of weeks of taking it easy. But sometimes, more severe injuries require professional help.
With that in mind, let’s explore some ways to go about treating a shoulder ache on your own.
Two Ways to Treat Sore Shoulders Without Seeking Professional Help
1. Rest And Ice
Resting your shoulders is the first thing you should do. Don’t train them and limit movements that aggravate the injury.
You can also ice the affected shoulder three to four times per day for up to 20 minutes. Doing so can reduce pain and discomfort.
2. Begin to Move Your Shoulder After a Few Days
If you suffer from a shoulder ache, you should train other muscle groups and do movements that don’t aggravate the injury. Doing so will allow you to stay consistent, keep your mind off the injury, and let your shoulder heal.
Once a few days pass, you should start to move the affected shoulder. Perhaps begin with simple movements like arm circles or moving your arms over your head. If those don’t cause pain, continue up the chain and see what you can do pain-free. As a rule of thumb, if you only feel some mild and dull pain, try to mobilise the area. If the pain is sharp and significant, give it a few extra days.
It’s also worth noting that you shouldn’t try any specialised shoulder rehab work alone. While it might be tempting to jump on Youtube and find a video from a physical therapist, don’t. Each treatment depends on the nature and stage of the injury. If you suspect that your injury is more severe than you’d like, seek professional help after the second week.