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How to Recover From a Sprained Shoulder

by Dan Hinckley » on May 20, 2020 0

A sprained shoulder can be a long and drawn-out injury to deal with as you are forced to use your shoulder for so much everyday movement. The trick is to understand what your shoulder needs to recover and providing it with time for rest and healing. To do this, you’ll need to know how it happened and what it means for your body. Below we’ve outlined all of the details about what a sprained shoulder needs to heal and how you can keep it from getting worse.

What is a Shoulder Sprain

A shoulder sprain is the result of a torn or stretched ligament in your shoulder. Your ligaments connect your bones and allow your shoulder to have mobility so that you can lift and rotate your arm. If you’ve sprained this connection between your shoulder and your arm, you’re likely to experience general discomfort, especially when you’re trying to use your arm normally.

Typical symptoms of a shoulder sprain can include bruising or change in the skin color around the site of the injury. You might notice stiffness or pain in the joint when you try to move your arm, or there might be swelling and tenderness in the area. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s a good idea to consult a healthcare professional to evaluate the extent of the injury. 

Treatment for a Shoulder Sprain

When you go to your healthcare provider about your injury, you will want to let them know how the injury happened, what you were doing when it happened, and whether or not you heard a pop when the pain started. The doctor will be able to evaluate your mobility and possibly X-ray the area or give you an MRI. In some cases, they might also use arthroscopy to physically look at the joint. Sprains come in different levels of severity, and a torn ligament, if it’s bad enough, can require surgery. It’s important that your healthcare provider knows how severe the injury is so that they can recommend a course of treatment that will keep you out of pain.

Typically a shoulder sprain will take about 8 weeks to heal depending on how severe the injury is and how early the intervention is.

Treatments for a sprained shoulder can range from a simple dose of acetaminophen to surgery depending on what type of sprain you’ve experienced. A few common treatments are listed below:

  1. A sling: Slings will immobilize the joint and allow it to heal without constant movement from day-to-day.
  2. Acetaminophen or NSAIDS: These over the counter pain medications typically address the discomfort you’re feeling and in the case of NSAIDS, they can also help with the swelling, which will allow the joint to heal.
  3. Physical therapy: If the sprain is severe enough, physical therapy might be necessary to ease you back into being able to use the joint.
  4. Surgery: If a tear in the ligament does not heal through these traditional measures, surgery might be needed to manually repair the tear and jumpstart the healing process.

To handle your shoulder sprain while at home, you’ll want to make sure that you do the following:

  1. Rest your shoulder: You’ll want to limit movement in the joint to decrease the risk of further damage to the area.
  2. Ice your shoulder: Icing the area helps with swelling and pain so your joint can heal properly.
  3. Compression: Compression will help immobilize the joint and provide additional support for while your joint needs to heal.

How to Prevent a Shoulder Sprain

There’s nothing convenient about treating a shoulder sprain and the best way to deal with it is to not get one in the first place! There are a few ways that you can avoid a shoulder sprain, and it’s important that you incorporate these good habits into your lifestyle.

When working out, you will want to make sure that you warm up before you start with any intense activity. Additionally, you will want to make sure that you listen to your body. If you have to strain too much to lift a certain amount of weight or during a particular exercise, it’s better to ease into it and train your muscles gradually rather than force it. 

You’ll want to wear proper protective gear during sports and you’ll also want to make sure that you are careful running on trails or uneven ground as a fall can easily result in the impact that can damage your joints.

When to Go to the Doctor

Ideally, if you’re experiencing the pain of any kind in your shoulder, you’ll want to go to the doctor. But if you’re trying to deal with what you believe is a mild sprain at home, there are a few symptoms to watch out for.

If you notice any new swelling or if your pain hasn’t decreased within a week, you will definitely want to reach out to your doctor. If you feel feverish, your shoulder goes numb, or you feel the skin around the injury site gets cold, you’ll want to seek immediate care.

Shoulder sprains are a seemingly minor injury that can easily turn into a nasty, long-term, chronic condition if not taken care of right away. The sprain won’t go away by itself without intervention. Taking care of your body is vital to long term health, and by making sure that you are careful with your joints that can easily be injured will help ensure that you are able to remain active and healthy for years to come.

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