Shoulder Pain At Night: What To Do?
The most frequent complaint we perceive from hundreds of people is shoulder pain that wakes them up at night. With shoulder pain, one can’t find a comfortable sleeping position, which doesn’t let them sleep properly.
The reason that shoulder hurts at night is not fully understood. It may be due to soreness that occurs when the shoulder joint is in a stable position for a long period. One small study revealed the connection between sleeping position and shoulder pain. It found that about 67 % of the people slept on the same side, so that they were suffering from shoulder pain.
How Does Shoulder Pain Feel?
If you feel a sharp or piercing pain under your shoulder, a stabbing and burning, it indicates that you got shoulder pain. The latest research has shown that high emotional or psychological stress levels subsidize chronic physical pain, usually in the neck and shoulders.
Common Causes Of Shoulder Pain at Night:
Various possible causes can cause shoulder pain at night. The most common conditions that aggravate shoulder pain during the night are listed below:
Bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs that aid cushion the tissues surrounding your joints. Bursitis is a condition that is triggered by an inflammation of the bursae. Once you suffer from bursitis, you are subjected to a vicious cycle of swelling, pain, and more swelling resulting in more pain until you treat it properly.
Bursitis in the shoulder is a very common cause of chronic shoulder pain at nighttime since the patient is lying on the same side for a long period compresses the bursae, elevating the pain in the shoulders.
Tendonitis is an inflammation condition of tension due to overuse of the tissues. The tendons that attach muscle to bone in the shoulders become inflamed and painful if tendonitis occurs. This causes too much irritation and stiffness in the region. At night, pain is at its peak and worsens, making it difficult to stay asleep at night.
This might be due to the gravity when laying down, causing the muscle and tendons in the shoulders to settle in a slightly different position, decreasing the blood flow to the area and elevating the pain of tendon-like tendonitis. You would need to consult an orthopedic to diagnose the exact cause of the tendinopathy.
Rotator Cuff Injuries:
A collection of tendons called rotator cuff surrounds your shoulder joint. It connects the end of your upper arm bone to your shoulder blade, helping to secure it in the socket. Damage to the shoulder rotator cuff or rotator cuff tears can be caused by an injury resulting from a fall, participating in sports that frequently use shoulder joints such as tennis, badminton, baseball, etc., lifting too heavy objects, or a car accident with shoulder injuries.
Shoulder Impingement/Rotator Cuff Tendinitis is inflammation and stiffness in the shoulder that reaches its extreme at night because of your position in bed especially if you lay on the same side which can further irritate the damaged muscle and rotator cuff tendons.
What Are the Common Symptoms of The Shoulder Pain at Night?
Poor sleeping positions are often responsible for shoulder pain and prevent a good night‘s sleep. When you are sleeping in a stable position over a prolonged period, it causes pain. It is important to sleep on your back or opposite side to avoid compressing your painful shoulder. Shoulder related night pain is often experienced as:
- If you have shoulder pain, you’ll likely feel a dull, achy, burning, and stabbing in your shoulder.
- A cracking sound is produced when you raise your arms.
- Severe pain that causes you to wake from sleep.
- You might experience joint pain when reaching behind your back.
- Limited range of motion, tenderness around the shoulder joint are also signs of shoulder pain. Very similar to frozen shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis).
- Pain worsens when you perform activities like lifting, throwing, bending.
- Seek help immediately if you feel a joint that appears deformed, intense pain, or sudden pain.
Home Remedies to Solve Shoulder Pain at Night Rapidly:
If your shoulder pain is worse at night, there are ways to ease your pain. Do these simple exercises to relieve shoulder pain at night.
Find A More Comfortable Sleeping Posture:
The first and most important is to find the best sleeping position at night. Tossing and turning is normal for everyone but can perturb your shoulder if you land on it wrong. If the pain persists and your shoulder condition remains unchanged, you can try wrapping your arms or wearing a sling to assist in preventing movement during sleep.
Stretches For Shoulder Problems at Night:
Exercising a few hours before bed can play a significant role. It will elevate blood flow to the soft tissues in the body but stretch only to a comfortable degree. Don’t ever push your body beyond its limits, and discontinue the exercise if you experience discomfort and pain. This reduces the pain and relaxes you enough to ease sleeping troubles. Furthermore, particular shoulder stretches can also help you reduce the tension and stress that has built up during the day.
Stick To a Sleep Schedule:
Along with choosing your best position while sleeping, always make sure to stick to a sleeping schedule. Good sleep hygiene can make all difference in your sleeping pattern. Try something soothing before bed, like a shower or anything that calms you. Medication can also assist you to sleep but be careful of how often you use them.
Medical Treatment for Nighttime Shoulder Pain:
If your condition is not mild and is much serious (can’t be treated on your own), you’ll seek help from a physiotherapist or any orthopaedics. Depending on your condition, your doctor might prescribe corticosteroid injections. Doctors also recommend taking over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory medication or ibuprofen shortly before bed for pain relief.
Physical therapy and rehabilitation programs can also help to improve chronic pain. Surgery may be recommended if non-surgical treatments don’t help relieve your shoulder pain. Treatment options depend on the individual case and the cause of shoulder pain.
Best Way to Sleep if Your Shoulder Hurts:
If you feel any stiffness, pain, burning, or stabbing in your shoulders, here are some tips that might help prevent that irritation and make sleeping more comfortable.
Keep away from sleeping on an infected shoulder:
Adjusting your sleeping position (opposite side of the shoulder that is affected or to your back or stomach) reduces the pressure on the aching shoulder.
Know your limits:
Keep away from strenuous activities during the day that could further irritation of your shoulders.
Good sleep habits:
Do not watch late-night movies, T.V’ s, computers, and keep a regular sleep schedule. In the evening, also avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.
Prevention Tips to Keep Away from Shoulder Pain at Night:
If you adopt the following steps as precautions, you can keep yourself safe from shoulder pain at night.
Avoid continuous workout:
If you are going to perform repetitive exercises, be sure to take regular breaks in your workout.
Wheelbarrow for Heavy Loads:
Do not lift heavy loads on your own; instead, use a dolly or wheelbarrow. This can lessen the strain on your shoulder from carrying a heavy load.
Elevate your shoulder strength:
Strengthen your shoulder muscles that are responsible for providing support and stabilization to your shoulder joint. This, in turn, could prevent painful injuries of the shoulders in future.
If you have an underlying condition that can aggravate your shoulder pain such as arthritis (osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis), you need to be extremely careful when exercising or adopting a particular sleep posture. If your shoulder pain does not subside over time, visit an orthopedic specialist to get professional advice and start appropriate treatment as soon as possible. Severe shoulder pain might be a sign of an underlying (ruptured) ligament or tendon. Your orthopaedic doctor will carry out an x-ray imaging of the affected shoulder to identify the cause and severity of the problem.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why does my shoulder ache more at night?
Your shoulders may ache during the night due to many possible causes, but some of the common causes may include:
- rotator cuff injuries (wear and tear of your tendon tissue)
- tendonitis (inflammation of the tendon)
- osteoarthritis (most common arthritis)
- bursitis (inflammation of the bursa)
What sleeping position is best for shoulder pain?
The best sleeping position for the shoulder pain is to sleep on your back with shoulder backing. You can change your sleeping position to the opposite side of the shoulder that hurts, or sleeping on your back with a pillow between your shoulder blades may help you relieve pressure on your aching shoulder. But if you’re more susceptible to changing your body position during sleep, you can use a pillow in a way that will prevent you from hurting your shoulder.
How can I tell if I tore my rotator cuff?
You may feel a mild to moderate pain in your shoulder that exudes down the side of your affected arm if you have torn your rotator cuff. You might also sense pain while doing overhead activities or sleeping on the affected shoulder.
Some other signs of a rotator cuff tear are:
- Shoulder weakness
- Clicking sounds or feelings while moving your affected arm
- Difficulty in raising your arm
- Shoulder pain that gets worse at night
What is shoulder bursitis?
Shoulder bursitis is the inflammation of the bursae (a fluid-filled sac that protects the tendons of the rotator cuff) of the shoulder joint. It is also known as impingement syndrome. Shoulder bursitis is caused by the inflammation or redness between the tip of the shoulder and the top of the arm bone.
When should I worry about shoulder pain?
You should be worried about your shoulder pain if it lasts for more than two to four weeks, even after taking pain-relieving medications and home remedies. You should instantly consult your doctor if you have redness, swelling, tenderness around the shoulder joint, and systemic symptoms like night sweats, fever, or sudden weight loss.
What does shoulder arthritis feel like?
You may feel moderate to severe pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion in your shoulder joint if you have shoulder arthritis. You may feel pain or hear clicking or popping sounds while moving your shoulder.
- Seladi-Schulman, J. (2019, November 20). Pain when sleeping on the shoulder: Causes and how to sleep comfortably. Healthline. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/pain-when-sleeping-on-shoulder
- Arizonapain, Nicolette, Arizona Pain, Susan, Dave, Pljakic, I., Whear, S., Volpe, J., Dylan, Martin, J., Don, Anny, K.A.Kazmi, Kajal, Draper, J., Michelle, Linnea, Frank, Hilary, … Hunt, N. (2021, September 20). How to relieve shoulder pain at night. Arizona Pain. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from https://arizonapain.com/shoulder-pain-at-night/
- Orthopedics, R. (2021). Nighttime shoulder pain and what to do about it. Night Time Shoulder Pain and What To Do About It: Restore Orthopedics and Spine Center: Orthopedic Surgeons. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from
- Haddad, A. (2016). 6 tips to prevent shoulder pain. Sports. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from https://www.sports-health.com/blog/6-tips-prevent-shoulder-pain
- Associates, O. (2019, November 8). Why is my shoulder pain worse at night? Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from https://www.mdbonedocs.com/why-is-my-shoulder-pain-worse-at-night).