What is shoulder sprain?

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Shoulder sprain: Overview

A shoulder sprain occurs when you stretch or tear a ligament in your shoulder. Ligaments are tough tissues that connect one bone to another. A sprain can happen during sports, a fall, or projects around the house.

Shoulder sprains usually get better with treatment at home.

How can you care for yourself when you have a shoulder sprain?

  • Rest and protect your shoulder. Try to stop or reduce any action that causes pain.
  • If your doctor gave you a sling or immobilizer, wear it as directed. A sling or immobilizer supports your shoulder and may make you more comfortable.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on your shoulder for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when you are awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin. Some doctors suggest alternating between hot and cold.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • For the first day or two after an injury, avoid things that might increase swelling, such as hot showers, hot tubs, or hot packs.
  • After 2 or 3 days, if your swelling is gone, apply a heating pad set on low or a warm cloth to your shoulder. This helps keep your shoulder flexible. Some doctors suggest that you go back and forth between hot and cold. Put a thin cloth between the heating pad and your skin.
  • Follow your doctor's or physical therapist's directions for exercises.
  • Return to your usual level of activity slowly.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.