You have a shoulder bruise (contusion). This causes pain, swelling, and sometimes bruising on the skin. You don’t have any broken bones. This injury will take from a few days to several weeks to heal, depending on how severe it is. Moderate to severe shoulder bruises are treated with a sling or shoulder immobilizer. Minor bruises can be treated without any special support.
Follow these tips when caring for yourself at home:
- If you were given a sling to use, leave it in place for the time advised by your healthcare provider. If you aren’t sure how long to wear it, ask for advice. If the sling becomes loose, adjust it so that your forearm is parallel with the ground. Your shoulder should feel well supported.
- Put an ice pack on the injured area for 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours the first day. You can make your own ice pack by putting ice cubes in a plastic bag. Wrap the bag in a thin towel. Continue with ice packs 3 to 4 times a day for the next 2 days. Then use the pack as needed to ease pain and swelling.
- You may use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines. Also talk with your provider if you’ve ever had a stomach ulcer or digestive bleeding.
- Shoulder and elbow joints become stiff if left in a sling for too long. You should start range of motion exercises about 7 to 10 days after the injury. Talk with your provider to find out what type of exercises to do and how soon to start.
- Unless your provider told you otherwise, you can take the sling off to shower or bathe.
Follow up with your healthcare provider if you don’t start getting better in the next 5 days.
When to seek medical advice
Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:
- Pain or swelling gets worse or continues for more than a few days
- Large amount of bruising on your shoulder or upper arm
- Your hand or fingers become cold, blue, numb, or tingly
- Trouble moving your hand or fingers
- Weakness in your hand or fingers
- Your shoulder becomes stiff
- Your shoulder feels like it is popping out
- You aren’t able to do your daily activities
StayWell last reviewed this educational content on 11/1/2019