Nonsurgical Shoulder Pain Treatment

by Will Bozeman

Statistics show that shoulder pain will affect more than 25% of adults at some point during their lives. In some cases, shoulder pain can be a temporary issue that causes mild discomfort; however, most shoulder problems are chronic and related to conditions such as arthritis, ligament and tendon tears, pinched nerves, and inflammation. 

When it comes down to ease chronic pain, patients tend to be offered two undesirable treatment options: pain medications or surgery. 

Fortunately, there are other non-surgical, non-pharmaceutical, and non-invasive treatment options worth exploring. Below, we’ll look at the nonsurgical treatments available today and learn how Neuragenex’s Neurofunctional Pain Management program can help.

What Is Shoulder Pain?

Shoulder pain is one of those problems that you can’t ignore for long. It affects everything you do and even just walking around can trigger waves of pain down your arm and chest and up your neck. Large joints are often the most noticeable joint pain problems and are one of those crucial joints that we use every day for basic quality-of-life activities. Because of the natural anatomical reliance on our hands, anything that impairs our abilities has a significant impact on our quality of life. If the joints in our hips are not functioning properly, the gait and balance of our walk will be affected. In the same way, if the shoulder joints experience pain, the consequences of this pain will extend to our hands and ultimately our quality of life in general. 

Healthy shoulder joints provide for a highly flexible range of motion, permitting the movement of our arms by nearly three-hundred and sixty degrees, depending on shoulder joint health and practiced flexibility. The rotation and flexibility of our arms depend on our body’s aptly named rotator cuff, which is a group of muscles and tendons that keeps our shoulders in their sockets. As we get older and acquire more risk factors for chronic shoulder pain, the range of motion in our shoulders decreases drastically.

What Causes Shoulder Pain?

The most common cause of shoulder pain can be tied back to the inflammation of the rotator cuff as it presses against the bones of the shoulder. In an equal yet distinct way, bone spurs (which occur largely in the elderly) can grow on the shoulder bones and press against the rotator cuff. Other causes of shoulder pain include arthritis, dislocation, overuse, and even bad posture.

Nonsurgical Treatment Options For Shoulder Pain

When it comes down to finding the right treatment option for shoulder pain, a lot depends on the underlying cause of the condition. For example, if the pain and discomfort are caused by arthritis or other inflammatory conditions, a healthcare provider will work to manage the body’s inflammatory response to reduce swelling, stiffness, and discomfort. 

On the other hand, if shoulder pain is caused by mechanical issues such as bone spurs or impingements, physical therapy might be the recommended non-surgical line of treatment. 

Given that some conditions causing shoulder pain and reduced range of motion can last for 3 years or longer, it is important to seek an accurate diagnosis and a pain management option that is sustainable in the long term. Let’s look at some options below.

Ice Packs And Warm Compresses

Using heat or ice to ease shoulder pain is one of the most common natural remedies out there, and it is one of the steps of R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Rest) therapies. 

When choosing to use either cold or warm compresses, there’s a rule of thumb worth keeping in mind:

  • Heat – Heat stimulates blood flow in the injured area, which delivers nutrients and oxygen needed for healing. Warm compresses should be used to ease stiffness, relax tight muscles, and improve the range of motion of aching joints. 
  • Ice – Ice packs slow down the blood flow to the injured area, which relieves the swelling and build-up of fluids that often follow inflammation.

Generally, heat should be used for lingering injuries and chronic pain, while cold compresses can be used to ease the inflammation arising from a new injury and prevent pain flare-ups after exercise. 

When addressing shoulder pain, cold therapies are best for inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, tendinitis, and bursitis. On the other hand, heat is best to relieve the pain of injuries such as muscle strains and sprains once the initial inflammation has resolved.

Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often prescribed to manage chronic pain.  Today, nearly 30 million Americans take these medications regularly to treat their conditions. 

NSAIDs work by blocking an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX), which is responsible for the production of prostaglandins in the body. Prostaglandins are chemicals in charge of triggering the body’s inflammatory response to injury. By blocking the production of these chemicals, NSAIDs can prevent the symptoms associated with inflammation, such as pain, swelling, build-up of fluids, stiffness, or fever. 

Some common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs include ibuprofen, naproxen, celecoxib, and high-dose aspirin. In the case of shoulder pain, NSAIDs may be used in the short term to ease the discomfort and swelling arising after an injury. However, they should not be taken within 48 hours of the trauma to avoid interfering with the natural healing process of the body.

Corticosteroid Injection

Steroids are the man-made version of a chemical already present in the human body, which is capable of reducing inflammation, swelling, and redness. Corticosteroid injections contain slow-release crystals of steroids, which might have a longer-lasting pain-relieving effect on shoulder injuries.

Drawbacks Of Nonsurgical Treatments

Although the therapies above are available and come with minimal side effects, it is important for patients to understand the risks they are exposing themselves to when selecting the wrong line of treatment. 

Below, we’ll look at the drawbacks of the nonsurgical treatment options seen above to help you make the best treatment choice for your shoulder pain.

  1. Ice Packs And Warm Compresses

Ice packs and warm compresses are typically safe to use at home, even without much experience. However, there are some risks worth keeping in mind before proceeding with this treatment:

  • Regulate the temperature of the compresses to avoid burning the skin or exposing it to extreme cold
  • Avoid applying ice packs and heat directly onto the skin
  • Only use heat and cold compresses for 20 minutes at a time
  • If you have an infection, warm compresses might increase the risk of the infection spreading
  • Applying ice packs for too long can cause nerve damage

If your swelling increases or you suffer from cardiovascular diseases, make sure to speak to your doctor before applying cold and warm compresses to your shoulder.


NSAIDs are predominantly safe and therefore readily available to most of the population and while these drugs can provide temporary relief, other effects should be considered by patients. While NSAIDs are not directly addictive to patients who take them to deal with shoulder pain, the risk of dependency cannot be dismissed. 

By their very nature, NSAIDs have a temporary effect, just like putting ice on pain. The effects of NSAIDs, while often effective at treating pain, are ephemeral and do not last long enough for patients to experience relief over a long period of time. Anyone who has experienced the effects of shoulder pain for long periods of time will know that NSAIDs are not going to be a lasting treatment for their pain. 

However, when used in conjunction with other treatment methods, NSAIDs may provide relief long enough for patients to work through those treatment methods, some of which will be mentioned later on.

For many patients, the minor efficacy of NSAIDs can cause dependency and even overdose. We must make it clear that we use the term ‘overdose’ not only to signify death or even comatose but more often the overuse of medication resulting in an adverse effect. Some patients make the mistake of assuming a technical overdose always results in death or comatose, but we aim to make it clear that an overdose by definition can also refer to milder, albeit negative, side effects. With that in mind, the mild nature of NSAIDs often leads to patients desiring heavier doses outside of the recommendation, which is a dangerous step that should not be considered when treating shoulder pain.

3. Corticosteroid Injection 

In addition to the use of NSAIDs and regular application of ice to diminish swelling in the rotator cuff, doctors may rely on the use of a treatment called corticosteroid injection. The primary purpose of corticosteroid injection, much like the use of NSAIDs and ice, is to reduce inflammation. 

However, unlike NSAIDs and the application of ice, the intention of corticosteroids is to provide lasting anti-inflammatory effects. One could see the benefits of these injections, especially due to their lasting efficacy. One other benefit of corticosteroids is that they closely resemble a natural hormone produced in our bodies called cortisol. 

Furthermore, we must not view the injections of corticosteroids as a natural remedy, even if they do resemble something that is naturally produced in our bodies. In reality, corticosteroids are more often referred to by their condensed term, steroids,which are already surrounded by controversy. 

It is widely known that steroids have a litany of side effects and are often viewed, perhaps with prejudice,as drugs that should not be considered to treat minor conditions. Needless to say, steroids are a divisive method for treatment. Many patients who have used steroids for treatment, including treatment for shoulder pain, will either experience the numerous side effects or appreciate how the treatment with corticosteroids makes them feel. 

Regardless of the opinion of patients and their experience with steroid treatment, side effects are undeniable and sometimes deadly. In a 2019 study conducted by doctors Dara Grennan and Sheila Wang, it was confirmed that steroids “. . . reduce the ability of the immune system to function (immunosuppression). 

Patients taking steroids are not only more susceptible to infections but more likely to have severe or unusual infections”.  These medical professionals continue to explain the severe side effects of steroids by comparing them to the aforementioned cortisol, your body’s primary and natural stress hormone. 

Grennan and Wang conclude that “. . . because steroids are so similar to cortisol, prolonged use of systemic steroids at higher doses can cause the adrenal glands to stop making cortisol. If the systemic steroid is stopped suddenly, this adrenal suppression and the resulting lack of steroid can cause a wide range of symptoms, such as dangerously low blood pressure.” 

Although steroids can act as a powerful anti-inflammatory treatment for shoulder pain and many patients enjoy how they feel while corticosteroids are active, patients with shoulder pain must carefully consider these treatment options concerning their condition.

Neuragenex: Neurofunctional Pain Management

Regardless of the cause of shoulder pain, a patient’s primary concern is their ability to perform daily tasks without pain. Any painful condition associated with the peripheral nervous system can be effectively treated and when it comes to shoulder pain, treatment options with Neuragenex should be your first consideration. 

Along with a solution to many other painful conditions, Neuragenex offers a solution to most shoulder pain issues. Because many conditions are a result of pain neuron agitation and constant pain reporting to the CNS, combined with persistent inflammation, Neuragenex’s proprietary treatment protocols and development of Neurofunctional Pain Management are the ideal starting point for pain relief. Neuragenex developed Neurofunctional Pain Management as a means to offer a safe and healthy pain management option. The proprietary protocol is called Neuralgesia and is a combination of high pulse electrical stimulation and specialized hydration therapy that work together to produce an enduring pain relief effect that also improves health for the patients. 

Patients often report pain relief after the first treatment and many patients can get out of pain for the first time in years. One of the surprising effects of Neurofunctional Pain Management is the mental relief that patients feel knowing that they can get pain relief without drugs, surgery, or invasive procedures and implants, all while improving their health and quality of life. in their shoulders and less pain from many other conditions.

Live A Pain-free Life With Neuragenex

The mission of Neuragenex is to relieve pain, restore health, and magnify the quality of life without drugs, surgery, or invasive procedures. Neuragenex is aiming to be the first thought, the first choice, and the first step in the journey of chronic pain management for millions of patients across the nation.

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