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Deltoid Muscle Pain

To understand deltoid muscle pain it is important to first understand the anatomy. Situated at the topmost portion of the arm, the deltoid muscle is an enormous muscle that plays a role in lifting the arm and gives the shoulder its range of motion.

It is attached to the shoulder blade (scapula), collarbone (clavicle), and upper arm through tendons and ligaments.

Muscles generally become sore because of tendon injuries, overhead activities, and overuse. Likewise, deltoid muscle groups soreness occurs due to various causes, including these.

Here, we’ve got you covered with the sources of deltoid pain, remedies, and treatments that can help you get rid of the pain.

What does a deltoid strain feel like?

Deltoid muscle strain leads to shoulder pain or tenderness at the side, anterior region, or back of the shoulder, particularly when lifting the arm.

In certain cases, the deltoid muscle might get torn and lead to bruising and swelling.

Deltoid muscle strain can be categorized into 3 grades as per their severity. These are as follows.

Grade 1 – Mild strains – these are categorized by stiffness in the muscle and some swelling. Slight pain may occur on using the arm while the range of motion remains unrestricted.

Grade 2 – Progressive pain and swelling will occur, with limited movement are typical of a grade 2 strain. In general, doing presses, push-ups, or lifting the arm may cause pain.

Grade 3 – Grade 3 strains are due to serious injuries and may cause severe pain, soreness, and a muscle gap or bulge. Pain makes the range of motion of the affected arm severely restricted or impossible.

What causes deltoid muscle pain?

Deltoid muscle pain commonest causes include injuries including shoulder injury due to overuse and sprains. Individuals who repetitively use their deltoid and shoulder muscles like athletes experience an elevated deltoid and soft tissue injury risk. Muscle spasms can also occur due to dislocation in the shoulder joint.

Deltoid strain can occur abruptly, causing sudden pain, due to an accident, like tripping or heavy lifting.

Most deltoid injuries develop progressively with time and are particularly caused by exercises such as weight lifting, swimming, or playing baseball.

Individuals who experience shoulder bursitis (bursa is a thin, fluid-filled sac that provides cushioning effect) generally also get shoulder tendinitis in which injury to rotator cuff tendons occurs because of its rubbing between the humerus and top outer edge of the shoulder, called the acromion. This condition happens in impingement syndrome.

How do you relieve deltoid muscle pain?

The symptoms of deltoid strains range from slight muscle tightness to severe pain restricting activity.

For mild injuries that occur due to overuse, your doctor would do a physical examination, identify your trigger points for pain, and might recommend regulating exercise routines to control the injury and preclude it from getting worse.

During a deltoid injury, decreasing the duration and intensity of sports practices or workouts is needed to allow the shoulders to heal.


Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, including naproxen or ibuprofen, can be taken to diminish swelling, inflammation, and discomfort.

Your healthcare provider can suggest the following treatment options, as per the severity of the strain:

Grade 1 deltoid strain – A compression wrap should be used, and ice applied periodically for a period of 24 hours after injury. This will reduce the associated swelling. After 24 hours, a heating pad should be used for pain relief and tension. Giving rest to the shoulder is also imperative.

Grade 2 deltoid strain – Periodic ice application should be done for 3 to 5 days to reduce swelling. In case of an acute injury, using ice packs and heat packs alternatively can also soothe the pain. Time should be allowed for the natural healing of the injury. The duration and intensity of exercise should also be reduced during this time.

Grade 3 deltoid strain – Application of ice should be done over the injury, elevate the arm whenever possible, trying to avoid the use of the affected shoulder and arm. Discomfort can be controlled with over-the-counter pain relievers.

However, in case the pain does not reduce with time and using home remedies, a physical therapist or an orthopaedic specialist should be consulted for additional recommendations in order for a quick recovery and management of pain.

Exercises and stretches

Like with any other physical therapy or sports activity, a warm-up at first is imperative. This will prevent further injury to the deltoid. Next, cool down and stretch. This will help protect the deltoid. For improving flexibility as well as preventing injury, the shoulder and deltoid should be involved with the stretches.

Ongoing strength training and habituation can be helpful for preventing deltoid strain. During the recovery period from the deltoid injury, gentle stretching can be useful for reducing pain.

Recovery times as per the severity are as follows.

  • Recovery from minor strains may take 1-2 weeks.
  • Injury with partial tears can take 4-6 weeks.
  • A serious tear may take about 4 months to heal.

The exercises and stretches for deltoid include:

The first step to recovery is to rest, use ice, and heat. Resting the arm should continue until your pain begins to diminish. Do not completely discontinue working out, except it becomes too painful. For more serious deltoid injuries, discontinue exercising your arm for about 1-2 weeks to allow time to rest. After your pain has eased, you can commence performing stretching and strengthening exercises to restore function.

After continuing these exercises, you still have a lot of pain, take a break and allow more time to rest. What’s essential for recovery is to prevent re-injury. It would be best to focus on re-establishing your range of motion to help you revert to exercise mode without hurting yourself.

Certain exercises and stretches that can promote recovery are as follows.

Pull and embrace your arm crossways over your chest for about 10-30 seconds.

Hook your hands behind your back, stretching your arms towards the backside. Hold for about 10-30 seconds.

Isometric resistance exercises like pressing your hands on a wall.

Dynamic resistance exercises once shoulder movement can be comfortably restored. This includes overhead presses with light weights and bent-over and upright rowing.


Parts of the deltoid muscles and structures around it have a poor blood supply, which is why they can struggle to heal on their own. It is the oxygen and nutrients in our blood supply that help to heal these structures.

Prolotherapy involves the injection of a regenerative solution into these structures to provide a direct supply of what is required to heal and repair.

As the treatment is helping to treat the root cause of the problem, it is deemed to be a permanent fix.

How can you Prevent Deltoid Muscle Pain?

Deltoid and shoulder injuries can be avoided by certain measures that include:

Sufficient warming up prior to starting the workout

Regular physiotherapy

Allow recovery time (rest days) for the muscle to recover after exercising

Stretching pre-and post-exercise

Best practices should be followed for the work-related injury

Have consistent sports massages for relieving muscle tension

Customized medical advice according to your condition can also be obtained through fitness trainers, sports therapists, as well as medical professionals.

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