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What's this pain in my shoulder?

There are three bones that make up your shoulder: the collar bone (clavicle), the shoulder blade (scapula), and the upper arm bone (humerus). There are four tendons that hold the shoulder joint in place, called rotator cuff tendons. You can get problems when these are damaged or swollen or there are changes to the surrounding bones.

Have a look at the three most specific symptoms and their cures:

Symptom 1

On the job, you have to constantly raise your arms above your head. It's becoming painful and wakes you at night.

It could be

A rotator cuff tear. The rotator cuff is four small muscles and a network of tendons that work together to lift and move your arm. They keep the ball of your arm bone in the shoulder socket.


Stop it by resting your shoulder in a sling, applying ice, and taking a pain reliever like ibuprofen. Contact your doctor because you need physiotherapy.

Symptom 2

You can't recall an injury to your shoulder, but it seems to have frozen in one position, causing you a lot of pain.

It could be

Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) where your shoulder can't move because the tissue around your shoulder joint has become thick and stiff. Moving your arm is painful but the less you move, the worst it gets.


It may take several months to get better. Take NSAIDs for the pain and consult a physiotherapist for exercises and stretches that target a range of shoulder movements.

Symptom 3

You had a severe shoulder injury while playing rugby. Since then, you've developed a deep pain in the back of your shoulder; you can't reach behind your back.

It could be

Osteoarthritis following the deterioration of cartilage that covers the ends of the bones, after your injury.


Rest your shoulder and use NSAIDs for the pain. If movement and stiffness become severe; you can consider shoulder joint replacement surgery.

How to get relief from arthritis?

"Recognising the early stages of a flare-up can be a powerful tool," says London-based physiotherapist Miriam Daurat. "Although flare-ups can occur any time, early warning signs can include worsening symptoms and fatigue - especially after periods of stress or following an infection."

What can you do?

Regular, gentle exercise can help combat stiffness but be wary of intensity. High impact exercises like running or contact sports are more likely to cause flare-ups, so try swimming, walking or even low resistance cycling.

Both heat and cold can offer pain relief. "An ice pack can relieve acutely painful, warm, and swollen joints, but should only be used for around 20 minutes at a time. A warm shower can be a relaxing way of using heat to ease stiffness and pain," Daurat says.

Speak to your doctor about trying different medications to find out exactly what works best for you.


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