18 May 2024
Discover the causes behind right shoulder pain after sleeping and find practical solutions to alleviate the discomfort. Learn how posture, pillows, impingement, tears, and more can affect your shoulder. Put an end to waking up with a sore shoulder.

Have you ever woken up with a nagging pain in your right shoulder, wondering what could have triggered it? If so, you’re not alone. Many people experience discomfort and stiffness in their shoulder after a night’s sleep, preventing them from starting their day on the right foot. In this article, we will explore the various causes behind this pesky problem and uncover some practical solutions to help alleviate the pain. So, if you’re tired of waking up with a sore shoulder, keep reading to discover the reasons behind this discomfort and find ways to put an end to it.

Causes of right shoulder pain after sleeping

Waking up with right shoulder pain can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience. It can affect your daily activities and even disturb your sleep. Several factors can contribute to this pain, including posture-related causes, the wrong pillow or mattress, shoulder impingement, rotator cuff tear, adhesive capsulitis, bursitis, tendinitis, arthritis, pinched nerve, and sleeping on the side.

Causes of right shoulder pain after sleeping

Posture-related causes

One of the main reasons for right shoulder pain after sleeping is an improper sleeping position. If you sleep on your front with your arm extended overhead or on your side with your arm tucked under your body, you may experience shoulder discomfort. These positions can lead to excessive stress on the shoulder joint, resulting in pain.

Stiffness and muscle imbalances can also contribute to shoulder pain. If your muscles are tight or imbalanced, it can affect the way you position your shoulder during sleep. Poor posture during the day can compound these issues and further exacerbate shoulder pain.

Muscle strains can occur if you move abruptly during sleep, leading to overstretching or tearing of the shoulder muscles. It is essential to be mindful of your movements and avoid sudden jerks, especially if you have a history of muscle strains or shoulder injuries.

Wrong pillow or mattress

Your sleeping surface plays a significant role in your comfort and can contribute to right shoulder pain. If your pillow or mattress does not provide adequate support, it can result in improper alignment of the shoulder and lead to pain.

An inadequate pillow or one that is too soft can cause your head and neck to sink, forcing your shoulder into an awkward position. On the other hand, a pillow that is too firm or thick can elevate your head too much, straining the muscles and ligaments in your shoulder.

Similarly, a mattress that is too soft or too firm can create imbalances and misalignments in your body, causing shoulder pain after sleeping. It is crucial to invest in a pillow and mattress that are suitable for your specific needs and provide proper support.

Shoulder impingement

Shoulder impingement is a common cause of right shoulder pain after sleeping. It occurs when the tendons in the shoulder become compressed and rub against the surrounding structures. This can lead to inflammation, pain, and limited range of motion.

Repetitive overhead movements, such as throwing a ball, painting, or lifting heavy objects, can contribute to shoulder impingement. These activities can put excessive stress on the tendons, causing them to become irritated and inflamed. Structural abnormalities in the shoulder joint, such as bone spurs or a narrow space for movement, can also predispose individuals to shoulder impingement.

Rotator cuff tear

A rotator cuff tear is another potential cause of right shoulder pain after sleeping. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that help stabilize and move the shoulder joint. Tears in these tendons can result from degenerative changes, acute injuries, or age-related wear and tear.

Degenerative changes in the tendons can occur over time, especially in individuals who engage in repetitive overhead activities. Acute injuries, such as falling on an outstretched arm or lifting a heavyweight, can lead to sudden tears. Additionally, age-related wear and tear can weaken the tendons, increasing the risk of tears even with minimal trauma.

Causes of right shoulder pain after sleeping

Adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder)

Adhesive capsulitis, also known as frozen shoulder, is a condition characterized by inflammation and tightening of the shoulder joint capsule. It can cause significant pain and stiffness, making it difficult to move the shoulder.

The exact cause of adhesive capsulitis is not entirely understood, but it can be triggered by injury, diabetes, or prolonged immobilization. Individuals with frozen shoulder often experience pain at night, which can be particularly problematic when trying to sleep.


Bursitis is the inflammation of the shoulder bursa, a fluid-filled sac that cushions and protects the shoulder joint. It can result from repetitive overhead motions, such as throwing, lifting, or painting, or from traumatic events like a fall or direct impact to the shoulder.

When the bursa becomes inflamed, it can cause pain and tenderness in the shoulder. Sleeping on the affected shoulder can exacerbate the pain, making it difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position.

Causes of right shoulder pain after sleeping


Tendinitis refers to the inflammation of the shoulder tendons. It can occur due to overuse, repetitive movements, or traumatic injuries. Tendinitis commonly affects individuals who engage in sports or occupations that require repetitive arm motions, such as swimming, tennis, or construction work.

Sleeping on the affected shoulder can aggravate the inflamed tendons, causing increased pain and discomfort. It is crucial to provide adequate rest and proper care to promote healing and alleviate symptoms.


Arthritis is a chronic condition that can affect the shoulder joint, leading to pain and stiffness. Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, occurs due to wear and tear of the joint cartilage over time. Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, can also involve the shoulder joint, causing inflammation and pain.

Individuals with arthritis often experience increased pain after periods of inactivity, such as sleeping. The lack of movement during sleep can contribute to stiffness and discomfort, making it challenging to find a comfortable sleeping position.

Pinched nerve

A pinched nerve occurs when excessive pressure is applied to a nerve in the shoulder, causing pain, tingling, or numbness. Sleeping on the affected side can compress the nerve, exacerbating these symptoms and leading to right shoulder pain.

If you suspect a pinched nerve, it is essential to seek medical attention to determine the underlying cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan. Addressing the root cause of the pinched nerve can help alleviate shoulder pain and improve sleep quality.

Sleeping on the side

Sleeping on the side, particularly on the right side, can contribute to right shoulder pain. The pressure exerted on the shoulder joint can lead to discomfort and pain, especially if the body is not properly aligned.

Poor alignment of the spine can also arise from inadequate support from the pillow or mattress, exacerbating shoulder pain when sleeping on the side. It is essential to find a sleep position that minimizes pressure on the shoulder joint and promotes proper spinal alignment to alleviate pain.

In conclusion, right shoulder pain after sleeping can stem from various causes, including posture-related issues, the wrong pillow or mattress, shoulder impingement, rotator cuff tears, adhesive capsulitis, bursitis, tendinitis, arthritis, pinched nerves, and sleeping on the side. Recognizing these causes and making appropriate changes to your sleeping habits and environment can help alleviate shoulder pain and improve the quality of your sleep. If the pain persists or worsens, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. Remember, a good night’s sleep is essential for your overall well-being, and addressing shoulder pain can significantly contribute to achieving restful and rejuvenating sleep.

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