What Are the Treatments for a Pulled Muscle in the Shoulder?

A strained or pulled muscle in the shoulder may result from a sports injury or overuse of the shoulder. The muscles in the shoulder can stretch or tear, causing instability in the joint, pain and a decreased range of motion. Symptoms of a pulled shoulder muscle can include swelling and muscle spasms. Risk factors for developing a pulled muscle in the shoulder includes muscular fatigue, improper warming up of the muscle before use or a lack of proper conditioning. Treatment for a pulled shoulder muscle depends on the severity of the injury.


After pulling a muscle in the shoulder, it needs rest. The affected individual needs to restrict use of the arm and shoulder for at least a day, notes Medline Plus, a website of the National Institutes of Health. Using the shoulder increases the risk of further injuring the joint and causes more pain. Placing the arm in a sling may help restrict the movement from the shoulder. Once the inflammation and pain begin to decrease, it is OK to begin to use the affected arm and shoulder to perform light activities.

Ice and Heat Therapy

Using ice and heat therapy for the injured shoulder helps decrease pain and swelling. The ice also reduces spasms in the muscle. Applying ice as soon as the injury occurs is best to help speed healing and minimize the swelling to the muscle. Placing the ice on the shoulder for 10 to 15 minutes at a time each hour for 24 hours is the best schedule to keep the area sufficiently iced, according to Medline Plus. To use ice therapy safely, a barrier such as a thin towel or clothing should be used to prevent damage to the skin. After the first 24 hours, individuals use ice every 3 to 4 hours for 15 minutes each time. After 72 hours, applying heat with a heating pad or microwaveable pad may help relieve discomfort and encourage the muscle to heal.


Medications help provide pain relief from the pulled shoulder muscle and may also help reduce swelling in the area. Medications containing acetaminophen help provide pain relief while other medications such as ibuprofen help relieve discomfort as well as act as an anti-inflammatory agent. Common side effects from these medications include stomach pain, nausea and drowsiness. Taking the over-the-counter medications for two to three days is usually sufficient for pain relief from a pulled shoulder muscle. For severe pain lasting longer than three days, a physician should evaluate the injury, notes the Merck Manuals.

About this Author

Abigail Adams began her freelance writing career in 2009, teaching others about medical conditions and promoting wellness by writing on online health and fitness publications. She is educated and licensed as a registered nurse, having received her degree from North Georgia College and State University.