20 May 2024
Struggling with shoulder pain during sleep? Discover the causes behind this discomfort and effective remedies to find relief and regain peaceful ZZZs.

Tossing and turning in pain during the night can rob you of quality sleep and leave you feeling exhausted the next day. One common area of discomfort that many people struggle with is shoulder pain during sleep. Whether it’s a dull ache or a sharp, shooting pain, this issue can significantly impact your ability to rest peacefully. In this article, we will explore the causes behind shoulder pain during sleep and provide you with effective remedies to help you find relief and regain those much-needed ZZZs. So, say goodbye to sleepless nights and hello to a rejuvenating slumber!

Causes and Remedies for Shoulder Pain During Sleep

Causes of Shoulder Pain During Sleep

Incorrect sleeping position

One of the most common causes of shoulder pain during sleep is an incorrect sleeping position. When you sleep in a position that puts pressure on your shoulder joint or compresses the nerves and blood vessels in the area, it can lead to discomfort and pain. For example, sleeping on your side with your arm beneath your body can result in shoulder pain because it places strain on the shoulder joint and can cause it to become misaligned. To avoid this, try to sleep on your back or use a supportive pillow to keep your shoulder in a neutral position.

Rotator cuff injuries

Another potential cause of shoulder pain during sleep is a rotator cuff injury. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint and play a crucial role in its mobility and stability. If you overuse or strain these muscles, it can lead to inflammation or tear in the tendons, resulting in pain and discomfort. Rotator cuff injuries can be caused by repetitive overhead motions, such as throwing a ball or lifting weights, as well as sudden trauma or accidents. If you suspect a rotator cuff injury, it is essential to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Shoulder impingement

Shoulder impingement occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles become compressed or pinched between the shoulder joint’s bones. This compression can cause pain, inflammation, and restricted movement, especially during sleep when the shoulder is in a more vulnerable position. Common activities that can contribute to shoulder impingement include repetitive overhead motions, excessive lifting, and poor posture. Physical therapy exercises targeted at strengthening the muscles around the shoulder joint and improving posture can help alleviate shoulder impingement and relieve pain.

Frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. This condition typically develops gradually and has three distinct stages: freezing, frozen, and thawing. During the freezing stage, pain and stiffness intensify, making it difficult to move the shoulder freely. The frozen stage involves a gradual improvement in pain, but range of motion remains limited. Finally, during the thawing stage, the shoulder gradually regains its mobility. The exact cause of frozen shoulder is unknown, but it can be linked to factors such as hormonal imbalances, autoimmune diseases, and previous shoulder injuries. Treatment for frozen shoulder often involves physical therapy, pain management, and, in severe cases, surgical intervention.


Arthritis is a common condition that can affect any joint in the body, including the shoulder joint. Osteoarthritis, the most prevalent form of arthritis, occurs when the protective cartilage around the joints wears down over time. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and stiffness in the joints. Both types of arthritis can cause shoulder pain during sleep due to joint inflammation and increased sensitivity to pressure. Treatment options for arthritis include medication, physical therapy, lifestyle modifications, and in severe cases, surgery.


Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa, a small fluid-filled sac that cushions the joints and reduces friction between bones, tendons, and muscles. In the shoulder, bursitis typically affects the subacromial bursa, located above the rotator cuff. Repetitive motions, overuse, and direct trauma can irritate the bursa, leading to inflammation and pain. Symptoms of shoulder bursitis include swelling, tenderness, and limited range of motion. Rest, ice, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medication are commonly used to treat bursitis and alleviate shoulder pain.


Tendonitis refers to the inflammation or irritation of a tendon, the fibrous tissue that connects muscles to bones. In the shoulder, tendonitis commonly affects the tendons around the rotator cuff. Overuse, repetitive motions, and poor posture can contribute to the development of shoulder tendonitis. The condition typically presents with pain, swelling, and weakness in the affected area. Rest, ice, gentle stretching exercises, and physical therapy can help manage tendonitis and improve shoulder mobility.

Referred pain

Sometimes, shoulder pain during sleep may be a result of referred pain from a different area of the body. For example, a pinched nerve in the neck or upper back can cause pain that radiates down into the shoulder. Similarly, heart conditions or gallbladder issues can cause shoulder pain as a referred symptom. If you are experiencing shoulder pain during sleep, it’s important to consider other possible sources of the pain and consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.

Injury or trauma

Injuries or trauma to the shoulder can cause acute or chronic shoulder pain, which may be exacerbated during sleep. Falls, sports-related accidents, or direct blows to the shoulder can result in fractures, dislocations, sprains, or strains. Prompt medical attention is necessary for diagnosing and treating shoulder injuries, as some may require immobilization, surgery, or rehabilitation.

Muscle strain

Muscle strain in the shoulder can occur from overexertion, repetitive motions, or lifting heavy objects. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion, which can be further aggravated during sleep. Adequate rest, avoiding activities that worsen the pain, and gentle stretching exercises can help alleviate muscle strains and promote healing.

Causes and Remedies for Shoulder Pain During Sleep

Remedies for Shoulder Pain During Sleep

Adjusting sleeping position

To alleviate shoulder pain during sleep, try adjusting your sleeping position. As mentioned earlier, sleeping on your back or using a supportive pillow to keep your shoulder in a neutral position can help reduce strain on the shoulder joint. Additionally, placing a pillow between your arm and body when sleeping on your side can provide extra support and prevent unnecessary pressure on the shoulder.

Using supportive pillows

Investing in supportive pillows specifically designed for shoulder pain can make a significant difference in your sleep quality. Orthopedic pillows that contour to the shape of your body and provide targeted support for the neck and shoulders can help alleviate pain and discomfort. Memory foam or latex pillows are popular options that offer both comfort and proper spinal alignment.

Applying heat or cold therapy

Applying heat or cold therapy to the affected shoulder can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. Heat therapy, such as using a heating pad or taking a warm shower, can help relax muscles and increase blood flow to the area. Cold therapy, on the other hand, can help numb the area and reduce swelling. Ice packs or cold compresses can be applied to the shoulder for short durations to provide relief.

Physical therapy exercises

Physical therapy exercises can play a crucial role in relieving shoulder pain and improving range of motion. A qualified physical therapist can develop a customized exercise program that targets the specific muscles and structures involved in your shoulder pain. These exercises may include stretches, strengthening exercises, and range of motion exercises to help restore function and alleviate discomfort.

Taking over-the-counter pain relievers

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can provide temporary relief from shoulder pain during sleep. However, it is important to use these medications as directed and consult with a healthcare professional if the pain persists or worsens.

Using shoulder braces or slings

In some cases, using shoulder braces or slings can provide additional support and stability to the shoulder joint, reducing pain and preventing further injury. These devices restrict movement and help immobilize the shoulder, allowing it to heal properly. However, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure the correct use and fit of these devices.

Getting professional medical advice

If you experience persistent or severe shoulder pain during sleep, it is important to seek professional medical advice. A healthcare professional can properly evaluate and diagnose the underlying cause of your shoulder pain, recommend appropriate treatment options, and provide guidance on managing the pain effectively.

Trying relaxation techniques

Stress and tension can exacerbate muscle pain and discomfort. To promote relaxation and alleviate shoulder pain during sleep, you can try incorporating relaxation techniques into your routine. Deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or gentle stretching before bedtime can help relax the muscles, reduce stress, and improve sleep quality.

Improving sleep environment

Creating a comfortable and supportive sleep environment can contribute to better sleep quality and minimize shoulder pain. Ensure your mattress provides adequate support for your body and consider using a mattress topper or a pillow-top mattress if necessary. Additionally, adjust the room temperature, keep the bedroom quiet and dark, and avoid stimulating activities before bedtime to promote restful sleep.

Seeking surgical intervention if necessary

If conservative treatments and remedies do not provide adequate relief, surgical intervention may be necessary, depending on the underlying cause of your shoulder pain. Surgical options for shoulder pain include arthroscopy, rotator cuff repair, shoulder replacement, or other corrective procedures as recommended by a healthcare professional. Surgery is typically considered a last resort when other non-invasive methods have failed to alleviate the pain or restore function.

In conclusion, shoulder pain during sleep can be caused by various factors, ranging from incorrect sleeping positions and injuries to underlying medical conditions. It is important to identify the specific cause of your shoulder pain and seek appropriate remedies and treatments accordingly. While some remedies can be practiced at home, seeking professional medical advice is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective management of shoulder pain. By following a comprehensive approach that combines lifestyle modifications, supportive pillows, physical therapy, and potential medical interventions, you can alleviate shoulder pain and improve the quality of your sleep.

Causes and Remedies for Shoulder Pain During Sleep

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