For minor tears, slight strains or over use, the initial task is to reduce inflammation, the body’s natural response to injury, as inflammation results in pain. An immediately useful treatment can be the application of ice for 10 to 30 minutes. Icing reduces inflammation as it decreases blood flow to the injured area. An application of ice can be made with a plastic bag filled with ice or alternately a bag of frozen vegetables, peas being ideal. If you often need to apply ice to reduce swelling, specially designed ice packs can be purchased to fit the damaged area. It is important to wrap the ice in a towel so that it doesn’t directly touch the skin as this may cause frostbite. Best practice is to rest from exercise for 2 to 4 days to allow your body to recover naturally. When you do start exercising again, start gradually, in increments, while building up the level of intensity.
Further home-based treatments include taking pain killers such as paracetamol or stronger non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen. The latter is designed be taken as a regular program over days or weeks and not just as a one-off remedy when there is pain.
Following a slight shoulder injury, you should avoid any activities that cause increased pain; however, it is best to keep your shoulder mobile by undertaking light activities as unused joints lead to muscle wastage and this may lead to further problems.
A supportive bandage or shoulder brace may be used to help strengthen the joint during recovery. This allows you to continue light exercise while knowing that the joint is being supported and strengthened.
If there is no improvement after a couple of weeks, or if your injury is particularly bad you should see your GP who may recommend physiotherapy or corticosteroid injections. Corticosteroid injections help to reduce pain levels but do nothing to help heal the joint, and may in fact be detrimental if too many are used.
Physiotherapy uses appropriate physical exercises and massage to encourage healing. Physiotherapy will initially involve manipulation of the joint to isolate the problem so that the practitioner can put together a series of exercises that will aid in the safe recovery of your shoulder.
Again, depending on the extent of the damage, the exercises will initially be light such as isometrics (flexing your muscles with no joint movement) and will build through a series of intensities over weeks or months until you are back to doing your regular 100 press-ups. Initially you will work with your own body weight, then, with improvement, weights, exercise bands or other training equipment may be added. Regular trips to the physio will gauge your rate of recovery and drive your new exercise regime. All of these activities are designed to minimise strain on your shoulder while exercising the damaged muscles and tendons, so building their strength in order to support the damaged joint.