Shoulder pain is one of the most vexing orthopaedic problems, because the shoulder is involved to some degree in many if not most upper extremity functions.

Whether you've bruised it, or abused it, a shoulder injury can be really painful and disabling. To relieve the pain and help it heal, you need to let it REST--but that's not so easy.

Here's what to do:

1. Place the arm in a shoulder immobilizer, and keep it there. This is more than just a sling, which provides upward support; it also has a strap that wraps around your body, to prevent rotational movements. If all you have is a simple sling, wrap an ACE elastic bandage round your arm and sling to do the same thing.

2. If it's an acute injury, apply ICE or a COLD PACK, 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off. If it's chronic (over 48 hours since the onset of pain), try MOIST HEAT for 20 minutes, 4-6 times a day.

3. See your doctor, as soon as you can. A painful shoulder can come from many things. You need a thorough evaluation, including x-rays, to know its source. Your doctor can also prescribe anti-inflammatory medications, which will help reduce local inflammation and pain.

4. Sleep IN the shoulder immobilizer, but with a pillow lengthwise, beneath your shoulder, arm and elbow. This will support the shoulder against gravity, prevent stretching of the tender tissues and discourage you from rolling onto the painful joint during sleep.

5. Be a patient patient. These injuries take time to heal, but need a balance between rest and exercise, once the initial pain is resolved. That's another good reason to be guided by your doctor.

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