Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ


I was half asleep one morning when I put my nitroglycerin patch on my shoulder instead of my chest. I didn't have any chest pain but even better than that my shoulder pain went away. How is that possible?


There are two possible explanations in a case like this. The first is that your shoulder pain could be caused by your heart disease. It's not uncommon for pain from the heart to get referred to the neck, jaw, upper back, shoulder, and/or down the arm.

The nitric oxide (NO) in the nitroglycerin (GTN) opens the blood vessels so more blood reaches the heart. If the shoulder pain was caused by lack of oxygen to the heart, then the nitroglycerin patch appears to help the shoulder.

The second possibility is that NO helps damaged tissue heal. If you have a true tendon problem, the NO may be helping tissue grow and remodel. A recent study in Australia actually used nitroglycerin patches on the shoulders of patients with chronic shoulder tendon pain and problems. They compared the results to patients who got a dummy (placebo)patch.

The group with the real patch got much better results. Their range of motion and function improved much more than in the placebo group.

Be sure and report this incident to your doctor. It's important to find out if the shoulder pain is coming from the heart or indeed from inside the shoulder.

Justin A. Paolini, MBBS, PhD, et al. Topical Glyceryl Trinitrate Application in the Treatment of Chronic Supraspinatus Tendinopathy. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. June 2005. Vol. 33. No. 6. Pp. 806-813.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
All content provided by eORTHOPOD® is a registered trademark of Medical Multimedia Group, L.L.C.. Content is the sole property of Medical Multimedia Group, LLC and used herein by permission.

Our Specialties

Where Does It Hurt?

Our Locations

  Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow us on YouTube
Follow us on Twitter