18 July 2024
Suffering from arm and shoulder pain at night? Discover the causes behind the discomfort and practical tips to find relief in this informative post.

Are you tired of waking up in the middle of the night with nagging arm and shoulder pain? If so, you’re not alone. Many people suffer from this discomfort, and understanding the causes can help alleviate the problem. There are several reasons why you might experience arm and shoulder pain at night, ranging from poor sleeping positions to underlying medical conditions. In this article, we will explore some common causes of this nighttime pain and provide practical tips on how to find relief. So, before you toss and turn in frustration, let’s uncover the reasons behind your discomfort and discover ways to ensure a peaceful and pain-free night’s sleep.

Muscle strain

Muscle strain is a common cause of arm and shoulder pain at night. This condition occurs when the muscles are overused or subjected to repetitive actions that exceed their normal limits. The repetitive motions can lead to muscle tension and fatigue, resulting in discomfort and pain. Improper lifting techniques can also contribute to muscle strain, putting unnecessary stress on the muscles and causing pain.

To prevent muscle strain, it is important to practice proper lifting techniques and avoid overusing your muscles. If you frequently engage in activities that require repetitive motions, take regular breaks and stretch to relieve tension in your muscles. Additionally, incorporating strength training exercises into your routine can help strengthen the muscles and reduce the risk of strain.

Rotator cuff injury

A rotator cuff injury is another potential cause of arm and shoulder pain at night. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, providing stability and enabling various movements. A tear in the rotator cuff can occur due to trauma, such as a fall or direct impact, or gradually develop over time due to wear and tear.

Inflammation of the rotator cuff, also known as rotator cuff tendonitis, is another common condition that can cause pain in the shoulder. This inflammation can result from repetitive overhead motions or activities that involve lifting heavy objects. Poor posture, such as slouching or hunching forward, can also contribute to rotator cuff injuries and exacerbate symptoms.

To treat a rotator cuff injury or tendonitis, it is important to rest the affected shoulder and avoid activities that aggravate the pain. Physical therapy exercises can help restore strength and flexibility to the shoulder. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the torn tendon or alleviate the inflammation.

Causes of Arm and Shoulder Pain at Night

Frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by stiffness and reduced range of motion in the shoulder joint. This condition can be extremely painful and can significantly impact daily activities. Frozen shoulder typically develops gradually and has three stages: freezing, frozen, and thawing.

In the freezing stage, pain and stiffness gradually intensify, making it difficult to move the shoulder. The frozen stage is marked by severe stiffness, and the range of motion is significantly limited. Eventually, in the thawing stage, the symptoms gradually improve, and the shoulder regains some mobility.

The exact cause of frozen shoulder is still unknown, but certain risk factors may increase the likelihood of developing this condition. These include diabetes, thyroid problems, shoulder injuries, and prolonged immobilization of the shoulder. Inflammation and swelling within the shoulder joint play a significant role in the development of frozen shoulder.

Treatment for frozen shoulder often involves a combination of physical therapy exercises, pain management techniques, and occasionally, corticosteroid injections. The goal of treatment is to improve range of motion and alleviate pain. In severe cases that do not respond to conservative measures, surgical intervention may be necessary.


Tendinitis, also known as tendonitis, refers to the inflammation of tendons, which are the thick cords that connect muscles to bones. Tendinitis in the arm and shoulder can result from repetitive motions, such as those involved in sports or certain occupations. Aging also plays a role in the development of tendinitis, as tendons tend to become less flexible and more prone to injury over time.

The symptoms of tendinitis include pain, tenderness, and swelling in the affected area. The pain may worsen with activity and can be aggravated at night, interfering with sleep. Resting the affected arm and shoulder, applying ice packs, and taking over-the-counter pain medications can help alleviate symptoms.

To prevent tendinitis, it is important to engage in proper warm-up exercises before participating in physical activities and to gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. Using proper technique and maintaining good posture while performing repetitive motions can also help reduce the risk of tendinitis.

Causes of Arm and Shoulder Pain at Night


Bursitis refers to the inflammation of the bursae, which are small fluid-filled sacs that help reduce friction between bones, tendons, and muscles. In the arm and shoulder, bursitis can occur due to overuse or repetitive actions that put excessive pressure on the bursae, leading to inflammation and pain. Direct trauma, such as a fall or sudden impact, can also result in bursitis.

The symptoms of bursitis include pain, swelling, and tenderness in the affected area. The pain may worsen with movement or pressure and can be especially bothersome at night. Resting the affected arm and shoulder, applying ice packs, and taking over-the-counter pain medications can help alleviate symptoms.

To prevent bursitis, it is important to avoid repetitive actions or motions that put excessive strain on the bursae. Using proper technique and ergonomically designed tools or equipment can also help reduce the risk of bursitis. If you have sustained a direct injury to the shoulder, seeking prompt medical attention can help prevent the development of bursitis and other complications.


Arthritis is a common condition that can cause arm and shoulder pain, particularly at night. Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent form of arthritis and occurs when the protective cartilage within the joints breaks down over time, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints, resulting in pain and swelling. Degenerative joint disease is a general term that encompasses various conditions involving the breakdown and deterioration of joints.

While the exact causes of arthritis are not fully understood, certain factors can increase the risk of developing this condition. These include genetics, age, obesity, previous joint injuries, and repetitive stress on the joints.

Treatment for arthritis aims to reduce pain, improve joint function, and slow down the progression of the disease. This may involve a combination of medication, physical therapy, lifestyle modifications, and, in severe cases, surgical interventions such as joint replacement.

Causes of Arm and Shoulder Pain at Night

Nerve impingement

Nerve impingement refers to the compression or pinching of a nerve, resulting in pain, numbness, and tingling sensations. In the arm and shoulder, nerve impingement commonly occurs due to a pinched nerve, brachial plexus injury, or thoracic outlet syndrome.

A pinched nerve can occur when a nerve is compressed or irritated by surrounding tissues, such as muscles, tendons, or bones. This compression can lead to symptoms such as pain, weakness, and numbness in the affected arm or shoulder.

Brachial plexus injury refers to damage to the network of nerves that control movement and sensation in the arm and shoulder. This type of injury can occur due to trauma, such as a fall or car accident, and can result in symptoms similar to those of a pinched nerve.

Thoracic outlet syndrome occurs when the nerves and blood vessels that pass through a narrow space between the collarbone and first rib are compressed or restricted. This can lead to symptoms such as pain, numbness, and weakness in the arm and shoulder.

Treatment for nerve impingement depends on the underlying cause and may involve physical therapy, pain management techniques, or, in severe cases, surgical intervention.

Shoulder dislocation

Shoulder dislocation occurs when the ball-shaped head of the upper arm bone comes out of the socket of the shoulder blade. This is usually caused by a fall or sudden trauma, and can result in severe pain, swelling, and limited range of motion.

Weak ligaments, which are responsible for holding the shoulder joint together, can increase the risk of shoulder dislocation. Certain sports or activities that involve frequent overhead movements, such as swimming or throwing, can also make the shoulder more susceptible to dislocation.

Treatment for shoulder dislocation typically involves repositioning the dislocated shoulder joint through a process called reduction. This can be done manually or in some cases, surgery may be necessary. Physical therapy is often recommended to help restore strength and stability to the shoulder joint and reduce the risk of future dislocations.

Poor sleeping position

Your sleeping position can have a significant impact on the quality of your sleep and the health of your arm and shoulder. Sleeping on the side, particularly with your arm tucked under your pillow or body, can put excessive pressure on the shoulder joint and lead to pain and discomfort. Sleeping on the stomach can also cause strain on the neck, shoulder, and arm, as the head is often turned to one side. Sleeping with your arm overhead can compress the nerves and blood vessels, resulting in numbness, tingling, and pain.

To promote better sleep and reduce arm and shoulder pain, it is important to adopt healthy sleeping positions. Sleeping on your back with a pillow positioned to support the natural curve of your neck and a pillow under your knees can help maintain proper alignment and reduce pressure on the arm and shoulder. Using a body pillow or placing a pillow between your knees when sleeping on your side can also help alleviate strain on the shoulder joint.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that occurs due to compression of the median nerve, which runs through a narrow passageway in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. This compression can result from repetitive hand and wrist motions, such as typing or using hand tools, which can cause swelling and inflammation in the wrist.

The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand and fingers. These sensations can extend up the arm, causing discomfort and affecting sleep. Wearing a wrist splint, taking breaks to rest the hands and wrists, and applying ice packs can help alleviate symptoms.

To prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, it is important to practice proper ergonomics when using tools or instruments. Maintaining a neutral wrist position, taking regular breaks, and performing stretching exercises for the hands and wrists can help reduce the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.

In conclusion, arm and shoulder pain at night can be caused by a variety of factors, including muscle strain, rotator cuff injuries, frozen shoulder, tendinitis, bursitis, arthritis, nerve impingement, shoulder dislocation, poor sleeping position, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Understanding the underlying causes and practicing preventive measures can help alleviate pain and improve sleep quality. If you experience persistent or severe pain, it is recommended to seek professional medical advice for proper diagnosis and treatment. Remember, taking care of your arm and shoulder health is essential for overall well-being and a good night’s sleep.

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