Treating a Sore Shoulder
August 13, 2004 2:22 PM   Subscribe

Yep, I've got a slight strain in my shoulder, which is bad. What's worse is that I'm moving tomorrow, so I'll need to be lifting lots of heavy things. Preamble aside: how do you treat a sore shoulder? Heat? Ice? Aspirin? What works best for you?
posted by .kobayashi. to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
Prophylactic ibuprofen. Prophylactic means you take it looong before you're hurting, ie. the previous day. Frequency according to bottle instructions.

Alternate heat and cold.

Stretch before heavy work. A physiotherapist would have specific stretches for you.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:36 PM on August 13, 2004

fff's got it for between now and tomorrow--alternate heat and cold, stretch, and keep yourself on ibuprofen or whatever that stuff is in Nuprin. (Not just aspirin/Tylenol, since the other two actually help relax sore muscles.)

Once you're lifting, you definitely want to get "Thermacare" pads--they're charcoal-activated, last for 6-8 hours, and they're adhesive, so you can slap them on exactly where you're sore. They're also absorbent, and so can cope with heavy, sweaty exercise. (I have _no_ connection with the company, but I'm a total Thermacare shill...I just think they're awesome.) Use them liberally, on your shoulder or anywhere else you're getting sore, to keep blood circulating through sore spots.

Two days after the move, when you're really in pain all over, and your shoulder is the least of your worries, you'll really want to look into some kind of therapeutic massage. Not just the nice rub-down kind of massage, but the kind where they dig their elbows in to crush the lactic acid crystals that have built up. Think "shiatsu" or "rolfing", and make the appointment today.
posted by LairBob at 3:36 PM on August 13, 2004

Epsom salts in a bath afterward. Magnesium sulfate is a muscle relaxer.
posted by kamikazegopher at 4:36 PM on August 13, 2004

Lay down as comfortably as possible, lift your arms up and move them around slowly, all the way. Rest for a while. By the way Kobayashi, we are sworn enemies.
posted by Keyser Soze at 6:06 PM on August 13, 2004

Keyser, dude, then now is the time. You know his weakness...FINISH HIM!!
posted by LairBob at 6:28 PM on August 13, 2004

Moving is really rough on the shoulders. The bestest thing you can do is get more help and go easy on yourself. I've been there... had to move a couple months after a dislocation. I swear it set my recovery back several months.

The best things I've discovered over time to deal with the trick shoulder are: icing it (relieves the pain and swelling quite a bit), finding a proper sleeping position (it involves no fewer than 3 pillows, all different sizes) and correct posture when awake (your shoulder joints experience more friction and pinching when the shoulder is positioned wrong).
posted by scarabic at 7:28 PM on August 13, 2004

I thought the guy who Kobayashi turned out to be was Soze's butler/driver in the end or something like that. You guys are mortal allies!

If only all enmity could be so easily resolved.
posted by scarabic at 8:53 PM on August 13, 2004

Scarabic, man, that dude in the movie's name was pronounced way differently, like "Kaiszher Souxhje". _Never_ get those two guys mixed up--they'll totally just kill you.
posted by LairBob at 9:00 PM on August 13, 2004

Arnica gel
posted by Feisty at 2:46 AM on August 14, 2004

posted by swift at 9:28 AM on August 14, 2004

the kind where they dig their elbows in to crush the lactic acid crystals that have built up

You're shittin' us, right? 'cause if there are "lactic acid crystals," massaging them would just cause them the totally trash and thrash the muscle cells in which they are embedded.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:06 AM on August 14, 2004

Well, no...that was the principle, as it was explained to me by a massage therapist (who definitely knew what she was doing, otherwise--formal training, etc.)

I used to have this really, really bad knot, just inside my right shoulder blade, and the first time she treated me for it, she used elbow and worked it over hard. When she finished, she said, "Drink a lot of water, and don't be surprised if you feel muscle soreness in that area over the next day or so. I've released a lot of the lactic acid that's built up in that spot, and as it spreads out through the muscle, it's going to feel like you overworked it."

She was totally right...I didn't feel "bruised" sore the next day, but the whole area felt like I had worked out too hard. I went back for treatments every couple of weeks until it finally loosened up for good, and it would consistently feel that way the next day. (Granted, less so over time as it got better, but still noticeable.)

So, "crystals" may be literally overstating it, I don't know, but the idea is definitely that the lactic acid accumulates in some kind of more solid form, so that it's not easily dissipated without mechanical intervention.
posted by LairBob at 10:35 AM on August 14, 2004

Very interesting.

I do know that the movement of muscle is essential to the circulation of cellular fluids in and out of the muscle mass. When hiking, it is better to slowly pace and putter while taking a break than it is to stop dead and vegetate: it helps "pump" the toxin buildup back to the bloodstream, and helps "pump" the blood through the circulatory system.

A bad knot might be a case of the muscle not moving at all, making it far less efficient at moving nutrients in and toxins out, and it's entirely possible that it might become toxic to the point of ceasing to be capable of functioning as a moving muscle, in which case massage would substitute for that.

I have difficulty believing that the lactic acid somehow solidifies, and I'd be floored if it becomes crystallized in the sort of way I interpret "crystal" (ie. as big spikey strong shards).

FWIW, lactic acid is in fact an essential part of our muscle's energy system: it is subject to a process that converts it back into usable muscle energy. The downside, IIRC, is that this process also creates a more poisonous waste in addition to the usable product (and is a slow process, easily outpaced by lactic acid production during strenuous work.)
posted by five fresh fish at 9:57 AM on August 15, 2004

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