From pulleys to patches and pillows, which remedies really WILL ease painful shoulders?

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Two-thirds of people in the UK will suffer shoulder pain at some point. The most common causes are rotator cuff syndrome, where muscles that stabilise the shoulder become inflamed; and frozen shoulder, where the tissue around the joint becomes tight. A range of gadgets claim to help ease shoulder pain. Adrian Monti asked experts to assess a selection, which we then rated.

SHOULDER SUPPORT BRACE

£19.99, ortorex.uk

Shoulder Support Brace, £19.99, ortorex.uk

CLAIM: Made from a thin stretchy material, this shoulder brace can be worn under clothing for everyday use or during exercise. Held securely over the injured shoulder and tightened with a Velcro strap, it has ‘three points that hold the joint in place’ while allowing the wearer to ‘move freely with confidence’ and ‘achieve a better posture for your arm’.

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘The best thing a brace does is physically remind you that you have a shoulder problem and so you’re more aware of how you’re moving it while recovering,’ says Leanne Antoine, a physiotherapist at Distinct Physiotherapy in Radlett, Herts.

‘However, braces don’t stabilise the shoulder sufficiently so won’t help manage pain or increase functional movement. They’re also often uncomfortable.

‘If you’re in a lot of pain, you’d be better off using something to offload the weight of the arm, such as a supportive collar and sling, or a cushion to rest the arm on when sitting.’

2/10

SHOULDER SURGERY PILLOW

£29.99, amazon.co.uk

Shoulder Surgery Pillow, £29.99, amazon.co.uk

Shoulder Surgery Pillow, £29.99, amazon.co.uk

CLAIM: This small, heart-shaped vacuum-packed pillow (below) is positioned below the armpit, and kept in place with a strap. It ‘elevates and decompresses the shoulder joint’ and, in keeping the arm away from the body, ‘helps speed up recovery from shoulder injuries’. Recommended for those with restricted shoulder movement, rotator cuff tears, or to use post-surgery.

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Moving the elbow away from the body to take weight off the tendons [which attach muscle to bone] is something many surgeons recommend post operatively — after a rotator cuff operation, for example,’ says Carlos Cobiella, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at University College London Hospitals and The Shoulder Practice, in London.

‘However, we’d generally fit a shoulder abduction splint — a sling-style support — not a cushion. Where I see this to be beneficial is if you knocked your shoulder and needed something in addition to ice and rest.

‘But remember to get properly examined by a doctor or physio, if there’s still pain after ten to 14 days. I am not convinced that this will speed up healing and recovery significantly.’

5/10

VIVE SHOULDER PULLEY

£11.99, amazon.co.uk

Vive Shoulder Pulley, £11.99, amazon.co.uk

Vive Shoulder Pulley, £11.99, amazon.co.uk

CLAIM: A simple pulley system that attaches to interior doors — the user holds both foam-covered handles to exercise the shoulders. The maker claims it offers ‘effective exercise’ for ‘shoulder rehabilitation, tendonitis, frozen shoulder and a rotator cuff injury’ — and ‘complete shoulder health restoration’.

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Physiotherapists commonly use pulleys to help patients in rehabilitation and they’re usually quite effective because they allow movement without having to put stress on muscles,’ says Mr Cobiella.

‘Moving your arm above shoulder level with a damaged rotator cuff, for example, is very painful. But a pulley means you can maintain full movement passively and helps avoid long-term stiffness.

‘But check first with a physiotherapist that it’s suitable to use this for your condition — then start by using it once a day for five or ten minutes.’

8/10

ORTHOPRO ELECTRIC HEATING PAD

£79.99, orthojointrelief.com

OrthoPro Electric Heating Pad, £79.99, orthojointrelief.com

OrthoPro Electric Heating Pad, £79.99, orthojointrelief.com

CLAIM: Another shoulder brace, this has a rechargeable battery attached that heats up jade stone beads within the fabric, which ‘provide continuous heat to warm and relax the muscle’, and provides a vibrating massage.

‘Accelerates recovery’ of shoulder arthritis, shoulder dislocation, rotator cuff tear and tendonitis [inflamed tendons]. Not recommended for use more than twice a day for a maximum of 15 minutes each time.

EXPERT VERDICT: Physiotherapist Tim Allardyce, of Surrey Physio, says: ‘Heat can be very effective at reducing pain — warmer joints tend to feel less pain and have more mobility.

‘Adding a vibrating massage is a good idea — massage increases blood flow to the area, easing tension and pain.

‘But, as with all shoulder injuries, this product would need to be used in conjunction with exercise if the shoulder is particularly stiff.

‘People might find this expensive and awkward to put on, plus its adjustable strap is a bit fiddly. A hot water bottle would have a similar effect but without the massage.’

7/10

MAGIC GEL SHOULDER ICE PACK

£18.99, gelpacks.co.uk

Magic Gel Shoulder Ice Pack, £18.99, gelpacks.co.uk

Magic Gel Shoulder Ice Pack, £18.99, gelpacks.co.uk

CLAIM: A reusable flexible ice pack that offers ‘unrivalled pain relief with controlled compression and targeted cold therapy’. Suitable for shoulder sprains, strains, post-surgery recovery and ‘soothing everyday aches and pains’. It remains cold for about 25 minutes, and you must put a cloth/towel between the pack and your skin to prevent skin burn.

EXPERT VERDICT: Ice packs work well for acute shoulder injuries such as falling or hitting your shoulder against something hard, says Leanne Antoine.

‘They take the edge off any initial pain or aggravation of an old injury so might appeal to those who don’t like painkillers. They also reduce swelling and inflammation.

‘Ice is good post-surgery too, but a cryotherapy cuff, which provides controlled cold compression to reduce swelling, might work better, but will cost more.’8/10

MASSAGE OIL FOR FROZEN SHOULDER

50ml, £19.99, avena.co.uk

Massage Oil for Frozen Shoulder, £19.99, avena.co.uk

Massage Oil for Frozen Shoulder, £19.99, avena.co.uk

CLAIM: The oil is a ‘blend of powerful natural oils reputed to bring effective relief when used on a frozen shoulder’.

EXPERT VERDICT: Tim Allardyce says: ‘I’ve seen no strong evidence — whether studies or patient experience — that the act of rubbing massage oil on to a frozen shoulder reduces pain.

‘However the ingredients, which include blue yarrow, have been shown to provide some mild anti-inflammatory relief — and the act of massage itself may also help some people.’

2/10

ACUMED ADVANCED PAIN PATCHES

Pack of eight, £11, acumed.co.uk

Acumed Advanced Pain Patches, £11, acumed.co.uk

Acumed Advanced Pain Patches, £11, acumed.co.uk

CLAIM: Containing zinc and copper, these patches use magnetic therapy as a ‘natural method of stimulating pain relief’. Each patch ‘works as a mini transmitter, emitting small energy fields which have a soothing effect and stimulate the body’s natural pain relief mechanism’.

Said to be suitable for joint, muscle or arthritic pain in the back, neck and shoulders.

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘There is some evidence that copper and zinc have healing properties,’ says Mr Cobiella.

‘But it’s quite a leap to then say zinc helps create an energy field to ease pain. I found zero evidence to support this.

‘All I can say is, it wouldn’t have a negative effect, so won’t cause any harm.’0/10

WOODEN TRIGGER POINT THERA PRESS TOOL

£9.90, massagewarehouse.co.uk

Wooden Trigger Point Thera Press Tool, £9.90, massagewarehouse.co.uk

Wooden Trigger Point Thera Press Tool, £9.90, massagewarehouse.co.uk

CLAIM: This simple-looking tool (like a wooden dowel with a tip) can be used for massaging all parts of the body including the shoulders. It can ‘reduce muscle tension’ while it ‘increases blood circulation’ and relieves ‘aches and pain’.

EXPERT VERDICT: This is great for massaging painful muscles in and around the shoulder, says Tim Allardyce. ‘You can vary its pressure and the tool’s design allows you to get a good grip, enabling you to actually massage your own shoulder,’ he adds.

‘Yes, you could use your fingers, but this allows you to use stronger pressure. For the most benefit, use it for about five minutes once or twice a day and combine it with some shoulder stretching exercises.

‘At under £10, this is worth buying.’ 7/10

XEMZ OCCIPITAL RELEASE TOOL

£13.49, amazon.co.uk

Xemz Occipital Release Tool, £13.49, amazon.co.uk

Xemz Occipital Release Tool, £13.49, amazon.co.uk

CLAIM: This triangular device (above) is made of silicone plastic and rests under the neck when you’re lying down. It can soothe away pain in various parts of the body, including the shoulders, as it ‘penetrates deep into the occipital muscles’.

EXPERT VERDICT: Tim Allardyce says: ‘The suboccipital muscles are a group of four small muscles behind the base of the skull, several inches away from the shoulders, so working on them won’t have much impact on the shoulders.

‘But the device did help relieve the tension in my neck when I tried it.

‘The three different edges of this device work well to vary the amount of pressure on the muscles, though you might get the same effect by simply using your fingers to massage them instead.’ 4/10

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