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Nonsurgical Treatment Options for Shoulder Impingement

Rest is key to healing your shoulder. If an activity hurts, don’t do it. Otherwise, you may prevent healing and increase pain. Your shoulder needs active rest. This means not doing overhead movements and activities that cause pain. But don't stop using your shoulder completely. This can cause it to stiffen or “freeze.” In addition to rest, impingement can be treated in many ways. Your healthcare provider can help you find which of these is best for you.

A physical therapist can also help you with exercises specific for your condition.

Healthcare provider examining man's shoulder in exam room.

Listed below are several treatment options that may be considered:


Ice reduces inflammation and relieves pain. Apply an ice pack for about 15 minutes, 3 times a day. A pillow placed under your arm may help make you more comfortable. To make an ice pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a clean, thin towel or cloth. Never put ice or an ice pack directly on the skin.


Heat may soothe aching muscles. But it won’t reduce inflammation. Use a heating pad or take a warm shower or bath. Do this for 15 minutes at a time.

Don't use heat when pain is constant. Heat is best when used for warming up before an activity. You can also switch between ice and heat.


To relieve pain and inflammation, try over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Or your healthcare provider may prescribe medicines. Ask how and when to take your medicine. Be sure to follow all instructions you’re given. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines. Also talk with your provider if you’ve had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding.

Electrical stimulation

Electrical stimulation can help reduce pain and swelling. Your healthcare provider attaches small pads to your shoulder. A mild electric current then flows into your shoulder. You may feel tingling. But you should not feel pain.


Ultrasound can help reduce pain. First a slick gel or medicated cream is applied to your shoulder. Then your healthcare provider places a small device over the area. The device uses sound waves to loosen shoulder tightness. This treatment should be pain-free.

Injection therapy

Injection therapy may be used to help diagnose your problem. It may also be used to reduce pain and inflammation. The injection typically includes 2 medicines. One is an anesthetic to numb the shoulder. The other is a steroid, such as cortisone, to help reduce painful swelling. It can take from a few hours to a couple of days before the injection helps. Talk with your healthcare provider about the possible risks and benefits of this therapy.

Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: Thomas N Joseph MD
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2022
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.