16 May 2024
Discover the causes of shoulder pain upon waking up and effective treatments in this informative post. Find relief and start your mornings pain-free!

Imagine waking up in the morning, feeling refreshed and ready to start your day, but then suddenly being greeted by intense shoulder pain. This common experience, known as shoulder pain upon waking up, can be both frustrating and debilitating. In this article, we will explore the various causes of this discomfort and discuss effective treatment options to help you find relief and get back to enjoying your mornings pain-free.

Causes and Treatment for Shoulder Pain Upon Waking Up

Causes of Shoulder Pain Upon Waking Up

Sleeping Position

One of the most common causes of shoulder pain upon waking up is your sleeping position. If you sleep on your side, it’s important to use a pillow that provides adequate support for your head and neck. The wrong pillow can lead to poor alignment of your spine, putting unnecessary strain on your shoulder. Additionally, sleeping on your stomach or with your arm above your head can also contribute to shoulder pain.

Rotator Cuff Injuries

Rotator cuff injuries, such as tears or strains, can cause significant shoulder pain upon waking up. These injuries often occur due to repetitive motions or overuse of the shoulder joint. If you participate in activities that involve throwing, lifting heavy weights, or overhead movements, you may be at a higher risk for developing rotator cuff injuries.

Frozen Shoulder Syndrome

Frozen shoulder syndrome, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. It often starts with mild discomfort and gradually progresses to significant pain and limited mobility. People who experience frozen shoulder syndrome often wake up with intense shoulder pain, making it difficult to perform regular activities.


Arthritis is another common cause of shoulder pain upon waking up. Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, is characterized by the breakdown of the cartilage in the joints. This can lead to inflammation, pain, and stiffness in the shoulder joint. Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder, can also affect the shoulder joint and cause morning pain and stiffness.


Tendonitis occurs when the tendons in your shoulder become inflamed or irritated. This can be caused by repetitive motions, such as lifting heavy objects or participating in sports that require frequent shoulder movements. Tendonitis can result in sharp or dull shoulder pain upon waking up, making it difficult to start your day.


Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa, which are small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the bones, tendons, and ligaments in your joints. When the bursa in your shoulder becomes irritated or inflamed, it can lead to shoulder pain upon waking up. This condition is often caused by repetitive shoulder movements or trauma to the joint.

Sleeping on an Old Mattress

Believe it or not, your mattress could be contributing to your morning shoulder pain. If your mattress is old or lacks proper support, it can lead to poor spinal alignment while you sleep. This can cause your shoulder to bear excess pressure and result in pain upon waking up. Consider investing in a new mattress that provides adequate support and comfort.

Impingement Syndrome

Impingement syndrome occurs when the tendons in your shoulder become pinched or compressed between the bones of the joint. This can occur due to overuse of the shoulder, structural abnormalities, or muscle imbalances. People with impingement syndrome often experience shoulder pain, especially in the morning when the joint has been relatively inactive.

Shoulder Instability

Shoulder instability refers to the excessive movement of the shoulder joint, making it more prone to dislocation or subluxation. This can cause morning shoulder pain as the joint may be shifting during sleep, leading to discomfort upon waking up. Activities such as overhead throwing or previous shoulder dislocations can contribute to shoulder instability.

Referred Pain

Sometimes, shoulder pain upon waking up may not actually originate from the shoulder itself. It can be referred pain from other areas of the body, such as the neck, upper back, or even the heart. Conditions like cervical spine degeneration or heart problems can manifest as shoulder pain. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause of your shoulder pain.

Causes and Treatment for Shoulder Pain Upon Waking Up

Treatment Options for Shoulder Pain Upon Waking Up

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can be an effective treatment option for shoulder pain upon waking up. A qualified physical therapist can assess your condition and develop a personalized treatment plan to help alleviate pain, improve mobility, and strengthen the shoulder muscles. Physical therapy may include exercises, manual therapy techniques, and modalities such as heat or ice therapy.

Pain Medication

Over-the-counter pain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can help reduce inflammation and alleviate shoulder pain. However, it’s important to use these medications as directed and consult with a healthcare professional if the pain persists or worsens. They can recommend the appropriate dosage and provide guidance on long-term pain management options.

Hot/Cold Therapy

Applying hot or cold therapy to your shoulder can provide temporary relief from morning pain and help reduce inflammation. Cold therapy, such as ice packs or cold compresses, can help numb the area and constrict blood vessels, reducing swelling. Heat therapy, such as hot packs or warm showers, can help relax the muscles and increase blood flow to promote healing.

Cortisone Injections

In some cases, cortisone injections may be recommended to provide relief from severe shoulder pain. Cortisone is a powerful anti-inflammatory medication that can be injected directly into the shoulder joint to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. This treatment option is typically used when other conservative measures have failed to provide sufficient relief.

Rest and Activity Modification

Resting the affected shoulder and avoiding activities that worsen the pain can help promote healing and prevent further irritation. It’s important to strike a balance between rest and movement to avoid stiffness and muscle weakness. Consulting with a healthcare professional can help determine the appropriate level of activity modification for your specific condition.

Posture Correction

Poor posture can contribute to shoulder pain upon waking up. Working on improving your posture throughout the day and while you sleep can help alleviate shoulder pain. Practicing proper ergonomics at work, using supportive pillows while sleeping, and maintaining good posture during daily activities can all contribute to the overall health of your shoulder joint.

Strengthening Exercises

Certain exercises can help strengthen the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint, providing stability and support. A physical therapist can guide you through a range of exercises targeting specific muscles in the shoulder. These exercises may include resistance training, stretching, and range of motion exercises to improve shoulder strength and function.

Surgical Intervention

In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to address the underlying cause of your shoulder pain. This option is typically considered when conservative treatments have not provided sufficient relief or if there is a structural issue, such as a rotator cuff tear or shoulder instability. Consult with an orthopedic surgeon to explore surgical options and determine if it’s the right course of action for you.

Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies, such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, or massage therapy, may provide additional relief for shoulder pain. These therapies can help alleviate muscle tension, improve joint mobility, and promote overall relaxation. However, it’s important to consult with a qualified practitioner and ensure that these therapies are safe and appropriate for your specific condition.

Self-Care Measures

In addition to professional treatment options, there are several self-care measures you can take to manage shoulder pain upon waking up. These include practicing good sleep hygiene, using a supportive pillow and mattress, avoiding heavy lifting or repetitive overhead activities, maintaining a healthy weight, and engaging in regular exercise to promote overall joint and muscle health.

Remember, shoulder pain upon waking up is not something you have to endure. By understanding the underlying causes and exploring appropriate treatment options, you can find relief and improve the health of your shoulder joint. Consult with a healthcare professional to develop a personalized treatment plan and regain control over your mornings, waking up without the burden of pain.

Causes and Treatment for Shoulder Pain Upon Waking Up

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