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Repetitive Strain Injury Of The Upper Arm Or Shoulder Treatment Overview

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Care Plan


First steps to consider

  • A mild to moderate repetitive strain injury can often be treated at home.
  • OTC pain relievers and other at-home strategies, like rest and ice, can help your pain.
See home treatments

When you may need a provider

  • The pain is severe or you still have pain after about 1–2 weeks of home treatments.
See care providers

Emergency Care

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Go to the ER if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Swelling that’s getting worse
  • Extreme pain
  • Discoloration
  • You can’t move your arm

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All treatments for repetitive strain injury of the upper arm or shoulder
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Read more about repetitive strain injury of the upper arm or shoulder care options

When to see a healthcare provider

If at-home treatments haven’t helped the pain after 1–2 weeks, see a healthcare provider. Also see a provider if the pain is severe or gets worse over time, you feel numbness, or you can’t move your arm.

It’s important to treat repetitive strain injury of the upper arm or shoulder early so it doesn’t get worse. This will help you get back to your regular activities sooner and help prevent chronic pain from the injury.

Getting diagnosed

A repetitive strain injury can often be diagnosed based on your history, including any injury you had, your symptoms, and your physical exam. Imaging tests, like an MRI or ultrasound, may be ordered to check for tissue damage. If your provider thinks there may be nerve damage, an electromyography (EMG) may be ordered.

What to expect from your doctor visit

  • Your provider will discuss what types of movements may be causing the injury and how to avoid them.
  • Physical therapy may be recommended to help build strength and flexibility around the shoulder. It can also relieve soreness and pain in the muscles and joints.
  • You may be prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) if OTC versions are not helping.
  • If pain is severe and other treatments haven’t worked, your provider may recommend getting a steroid injection to reduce pain and swelling.

Types of providers who treat repetitive strain injury

  • A primary care provider can treat mild to moderate symptoms.
  • An orthopedic doctor, who specializes in treating muscles, tendons, and nerves, can also treat the condition, particularly if it is severe.
  • If surgery is necessary, you’ll be referred to an orthopedic surgeon.
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