How Do I Rest My Shoulder?

Shoulder injures, ranging from a rotator cuff tear to bursitis or an impingement of the nearby muscles, can cause extreme pain. The first step to healing a shoulder injury is rest. Depending on the injury, shoulder rest can mean complete immobilization for a period of time, or just a break from the heavy weight-bearing activities that may have contributed to your overuse injury--called active rest. Consult your physician to determine what specific treatment you will need to rest your shoulder.

Doctor putting cling on woman to immoblize her shoulder. Credit: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Step 1

Reduce the inflammation in your shoulder joint as part of your resting phase. The NYU Medical Center's Harkness Center for Dance Injuries recommends icing your shoulder and taking a pain reliever, as well as refraining from strenuous activity. The combination of ice, medication and rest can reduce swelling and help your body heal.

Step 2

Wear a broad arm sling to keep your shoulder still for a few days if the simple act of walking around is causing you a great deal of shoulder pain. A broad arm sling keep your affected arm still against your chest and will keep your shoulder immobile. Resting your shoulder in this way is often a first-line treatment method for rotator cuff injuries, according to Merck Manuals.

Step 3

Refrain from extending your arms fully above your head while you experience shoulder pain. The American Academy of Family Physicians suggests "active rest" as a coping mechanism to relieve pain that stems from a shoulder injury. Active rest means going about your daily life and moving your shoulder normally without performing heavy lifting or sports-related exercises that will strain your shoulder more.

Things You'll Need

  • Ice pack

  • Pain relievers

  • Sling


Ask your doctor to refer you to a physical therapist for persistent shoulder injuries that do not seem to completely resolve themselves. A physical therapist can teach you range-of-motion exercises that can strengthen your weakened muscles and help prevent future injury.

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