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Ice or heat a rotator cuff injury

A rotator cuff injury is a common cause of shoulder pain, and includes:

A tingling or numbness in your arm or shoulder should be immediately referred to a doctor or the Emergency Department as this could be symptomatic of a more dangerous issue such as a trapped nerve or a heart attack.

The initial response to any shoulder pain or a shoulder injury is to stop the activity and rest the shoulder. Excessive resting of the shoulder can lead to Frozen Shoulder - with symptoms of stiffness, restricted movement and increasing pain - so seek medical advice if the symptoms continue beyond a few days.

Ice or a shoulder ice wrap should be applied as soon as possible after the rotator cuff injury, or in response to the onset of shoulder pain, and should be applied regularly (around 20 minutes every two hours) for the next 48 – 72 hours. The ice will constrict the blood vessels to reduce swelling, inflammation and bruising, and will provide pain relief by decreasing nerve conduction (and by reducing the pressure that the swelling is putting on the injury and surrounding tissue).

Keeping the shoulder above heart height will also help reduce inflammation. Compression is often used for soft tissue injuries, but you must ensure that the compression does not restrict blood flow down the arm.

Any injury where the pain is severe, pain continues for more than a few days, there is tingling or numbness, or you have restricted movement in your shoulder should be referred to a doctor to determine the type of injury, the extent of the damage and a strategy for rehab.

Once the inflammation has gone down, heat or a shoulder heat wrap can be used as part of rehab, warming the tendons and muscles around the shoulder prior to stretching and strengthening.

Icing can continue to be used after exercise and physical therapy to reduce inflammation and provide pain-relief.

The Arctic Heat Shoulder Wrap can provide ice, compression and heat, while being comfortable and easy to apply – the Velcro straps will hold it in place as it moulds to your shoulder, leaving you free to focus on other activities.

The wraps are substantially more comfortable and user-friendly than an ice pack, cold pack or a bag of ice, and offer improvement over heat pads, heat packs, heating bags and hot water bottles, as they are safe, easy to apply, fit the body, are reusable and don’t smell. The gel has been scientifically proven to retain temperature for significantly longer than similar products.

Please note that icing time should be limited to 20 minutes, and the muscle or joint should be allowed to return to normal temperature before reapplying. Heat should not be applied if there is inflammation as this will increase blood flow to the injured tendon or bursa.