Managing Pain That Lingers Years After Shoulder Surgery

When you tear your rotator cuff, strain your labrum, or otherwise seriously injure your shoulder, you will generally need surgery to correct the problem. Usually, surgery takes care of the majority of the acute pain. However, some patients do have shoulder pain that lingers or comes and goes, years after surgery. If you're facing this type of pain right now, here are some ways you can treat it.

Go back to physical therapy.

Most patients have a few months of physical therapy after surgery, but then they stop going. If you're still having pain, though, it could be because certain tissues were never properly re-strengthened after your surgery. It could also be because various tendons and ligaments tightened up with surgery and then never loosened. Going back to physical therapy will help with both of these issues, ultimately easing your pain. Your physical therapist will guide you through some exercises in their office and also assign you some work to do at home. Within a few weeks, you should start to notice the pain fades away.


Often, the shoulder pain that lingers after surgery is muscle pain. It may trace back to the muscle damage that was done when incisions were made to perform the surgery. The muscles may still be a bit tight and knotted due to this trauma. A massage can go a long way towards loosening up the muscles and easing your pain. Look for a massage therapist who has worked with post-surgery patients in the past. Methods like deep tissue massage and sports massage tend to be more helpful as they address the deeper layers of muscle, where your pain and tightness are likely originating.


Is your pain coming on after you've used your shoulder and been a little bit active? It may be the result of inflammation, which arises because there's still some lingering tissue damage in your shoulder post-surgery, and that damage is aggravated by movement. Your body may, ultimately, be able to heal this lingering damage on its own, but you'll need to give it a little help. Ice your shoulder when it's sore. This will bring down the inflammation, which will bring down the pain. As you repeatedly ice your shoulder, this should keep the level of inflammation low enough that your shoulder heals and the pain becomes less and less over time.

Shoulder surgery is not always a permanent solution to shoulder pain. If you still have some lingering shoulder pain post-surgery, look into the options above.

To learn more, contact a resource that offers shoulder pain treatment.