Shoulder pain icon

All about shoulder problems

Shoulder problems

Shoulder problems are common and can occur throughout adult life. Many respond to simple treatments / self management.

Shoulder problems can cause a range of symptoms, including:

  • pain
  • stiffness
  • weakness

You don’t normally need to see a healthcare professional. New onset or flare-up of a longstanding shoulder problem should settle within 6 weeks.

What causes shoulder problems?

Shoulder problems are common and can be caused by movements such as taking off your coat, lifting something awkwardly, taking part in sport and a trip or a fall.

As you get older, normal wear and tear can cause your shoulder problem to flare-up now and again, often for no reason.

Can this cause problems anywhere else?

You may feel some pains around your shoulder and neck and into your arm.


Keeping active is an essential part of your treatment and recovery and is the single best thing you can do for your health.

Being physically active throughout your recovery can:

  • prevent a recurrence of the problem
  • maintain your current levels of fitness – even if you have to modify what you normally do, any activity is better than none
  • keep your other muscles and joints strong and flexible
  • Keep a healthy body weight

It’s recommended you stay at or return to work as quickly as possible during your recovery. You don’t need to be pain and symptom-free to return to work.

Pain treatments

  • Pain medication can help to reduce the pain and help you move more comfortably, which can help your recovery. Speak to your community pharmacist about medication or other methods of pain relief​. It’s important to take medication regularly.​

Resting or moving?

Within the first 24 to 48 hours after a shoulder problem has started you should try to:

  • rest your shoulder but avoid long spells of not moving at all
  • move your shoulder gently for 10 to 20 seconds every hour when you are awake

After 48 hours:

  • Slowly return to normal activity
  • Do whatever you normally would and stay at, or return to work – this is important and is the best way to get better
  • Avoid sports or heavy lifting until you have less discomfort and good movement. Remember to warm up fully before you start sporting activities.

When to speak to a healthcare professional

  • There has been significant trauma such as a fall from a height or a direct blow to the shoulder
  • Your pain is preventing any movement at all

Help and support

If, after following the above advice, your shoulder problem hasn’t improved within 6 weeks a self-referral to TIMS may be of benefit.

To refer yourself to TIMS you will need to have your NHS number to hand.

For information on where to find your NHS number see NHS England – How can I find out my NHS number?

Useful links for shoulder pain

  • Information leaflets developed by TIMS giving advice on:
  • Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust Information Leaflets


  • Versus Arthritis shoulder pain information booklet. The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body and can be affected by a number of painful conditions. In this booklet we’ll explain what causes shoulder pain and what you, and your healthcare team, can do to ease the problem. We’ll also suggest where you can find out more about coping with shoulder pain.