27 May 2024
Discover the causes and remedies for waking up with aching shoulders. From poor sleeping positions to medical conditions, find effective solutions to wake up pain-free.

Have you ever woken up in the morning, feeling refreshed and ready to start the day, only to be greeted by a dull, nagging pain in your shoulders? It can be a frustrating experience that sets the tone for the rest of your day. In this article, we will explore the various causes behind this common issue and offer some practical remedies to help alleviate the discomfort. Whether it’s due to poor sleeping positions or underlying medical conditions, we’ve got you covered with simple yet effective solutions that will have you waking up pain-free in no time.

Causes and Remedies for Waking Up with Aching Shoulders

Causes of Waking Up with Aching Shoulders

Waking up with aching shoulders can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience. There are several potential causes for this problem, ranging from your sleeping position to medical conditions. By understanding the possible reasons behind your shoulder pain, you can take steps to find relief and improve your sleep quality.

Sleeping Position

The position in which you sleep can have a significant impact on your shoulders. Side sleeping, stomach sleeping, and back sleeping all affect the alignment and pressure placed on your shoulders during the night.

  • Side Sleeping: Sleeping on your side can put excessive pressure on the shoulder if not properly supported. This can lead to shoulder pain and discomfort.
  • Stomach Sleeping: Sleeping on your stomach can strain the muscles and tendons in your shoulders, especially if you twist your head or arms during sleep.
  • Back Sleeping: While back sleeping is generally considered the best position for spinal alignment, improper pillow support or an unsuitable mattress can still cause shoulder pain.

Poor Pillow Support

The type and quality of your pillow can also contribute to waking up with aching shoulders. The pillow plays a crucial role in supporting your neck and shoulders, maintaining proper alignment, and reducing pressure on sensitive areas.

  • Wrong Pillow Height: Using a pillow that is too high or too low can disrupt the alignment of your spine and put strain on your shoulders.
  • Inadequate Neck Support: A pillow that does not provide adequate support for your neck can cause your shoulders to bear more weight and lead to discomfort.
  • Lack of Proper Alignment: If your pillow does not properly align your head, neck, and shoulders, it can create tension and contribute to shoulder pain.

Sleeping on an Unsuitable Mattress

In addition to pillow support, the quality and suitability of your mattress are crucial for achieving a comfortable and pain-free sleep experience.

  • Lack of Firmness: A mattress that is too soft or too firm can lead to improper spinal alignment and increased pressure on your shoulders.
  • Insufficient Cushioning: Without proper cushioning, your shoulders may sink too far into the mattress, leading to discomfort and pain.
  • Inadequate Spinal Alignment: A mattress that fails to promote proper spinal alignment can cause strain and tension in your shoulders.

Overuse or Strain

Overuse or strain of the muscles and tendons in your shoulders can cause pain, particularly upon waking up. Certain activities or habits can contribute to this type of pain.

  • Repetitive Shoulder Movements: Engaging in repetitive shoulder movements, such as repetitive lifting or reaching, can strain the muscles and tendons, leading to pain.
  • Excessive Lifting or Carrying: Repeatedly lifting heavy objects or carrying heavy loads can overwork the muscles in your shoulders, causing them to become fatigued and painful.
  • Incorrect Weightlifting Technique: Using improper technique while weightlifting can put excessive stress on your shoulders, leading to strain and discomfort.
  • Sports-related Activities: Participating in sports or physical activities that involve repetitive or strenuous shoulder movements, such as swimming or throwing, can contribute to shoulder pain.

Muscle Imbalance

Muscle imbalances occur when certain muscles are tighter or weaker than others, causing an imbalance in strength and tension within the shoulder complex.

  • Tightness in Chest Muscles: Tight chest muscles can pull the shoulders forward, leading to increased strain on the muscles and tendons in the shoulders.
  • Weakness in Upper Back Muscles: Weak upper back muscles can result in poor posture and an increased load on the shoulder muscles, leading to pain.
  • Imbalanced Shoulder Muscles: Imbalances in the strength and flexibility of the muscles around the shoulder joint can lead to altered movement patterns and pain.

Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

Rotator cuff tendonitis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the tendons in the rotator cuff.

  • Inflammation of Tendons: Overuse or repetitive activities can cause irritation and inflammation of the tendons, leading to pain and discomfort.
  • Repetitive Motion Injuries: Engaging in repetitive shoulder movements can overwork the tendons, eventually leading to inflammation and tendonitis.
  • Aging: With age, the tendons in the shoulder become less flexible and more prone to injury, increasing the risk of developing rotator cuff tendonitis.

Shoulder Bursitis

Shoulder bursitis refers to inflammation of the bursae, small fluid-filled sacs that reduce friction between tendons and bones in the shoulder.

  • Inflammation of Bursae: Overuse, trauma, or repetitive activities can irritate and inflame the bursae, causing shoulder pain.
  • Overuse or Trauma: Activities that involve repetitive or excessive shoulder movements, as well as direct trauma to the shoulder, can contribute to the development of shoulder bursitis.
  • Infection: In rare cases, shoulder bursitis may be caused by an infection in the bursae, leading to pain, swelling, and discomfort.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by inflammation and thickening of the shoulder capsule, limiting the range of motion.

  • Inflammation and Thickening of Shoulder Capsule: The tissues surrounding the shoulder joint become inflamed and thickened, resulting in pain and a restricted range of motion.
  • Adhesive Capsulitis: The inflammation and thickening of the shoulder capsule can cause the tissues to stick together, further limiting the shoulder’s mobility.
  • Limited Range of Motion: Frozen shoulder can lead to a considerable reduction in shoulder movement, making everyday activities challenging and causing pain.


Arthritis, specifically osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, can also contribute to waking up with aching shoulders.

  • Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage in the joints wears down over time, leading to pain, stiffness, and inflammation in the shoulder joint.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation in the joints, including the shoulder, leading to pain and reduced range of motion.

Nerve Impingement

Nerve impingement, also known as a pinched nerve, can occur when pressure is applied to a nerve in the shoulder region, causing pain and discomfort.

Waking up with aching shoulders can be a sign of nerve impingement in the shoulder area. The pressure on the nerve can result from various factors, such as muscle imbalances, poor posture, or certain medical conditions.

Causes and Remedies for Waking Up with Aching Shoulders

Seeking Medical Advice

If you frequently wake up with aching shoulders or experience persistent shoulder pain, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Consulting a Doctor

A doctor can evaluate your symptoms, review your medical history, and conduct a physical examination to determine the underlying cause of your shoulder pain. They may also recommend further diagnostic tests, such as imaging studies, to gather more information.

Physical Therapy Referral

Physical therapy can be a valuable treatment option for shoulder pain. A physical therapist will create a customized exercise and stretching program to address muscle imbalances, promote proper shoulder mechanics, and improve strength and flexibility. They may also use manual therapy techniques to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.

Diagnostic Tests

In some cases, diagnostic tests, such as X-rays, MRIs, or ultrasound, may be necessary to provide a more detailed view of the shoulder structures and identify any underlying structural issues or abnormalities.

Remember, everyone’s experience with shoulder pain is unique, and the causes can vary. It is important to consult a healthcare professional to receive an accurate diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. Making necessary adjustments to your sleeping position, pillow support, mattress, and lifestyle can contribute to alleviating shoulder pain and improving your overall sleep quality.

Causes and Remedies for Waking Up with Aching Shoulders

About The Author