20 May 2024
Discover the causes of shoulder pain after waking up. Whether it's due to poor sleep positions or injuries, understanding these reasons is crucial for finding relief.

Imagine waking up in the morning feeling refreshed and ready to start your day, only to be greeted by a sharp, nagging pain in your shoulder. As you try to move your arm, the discomfort intensifies, making even the simplest tasks seem challenging. This experience is all too familiar for many individuals who suffer from the causes of shoulder pain after waking up. Whether it’s due to an injury, poor sleeping positions, or an underlying medical condition, understanding the reasons behind this discomfort is crucial in finding relief and regaining control of your mornings.

Causes of Shoulder Pain After Waking Up

If you find yourself waking up with shoulder pain, you may be wondering what could be causing it. There are several potential reasons for this discomfort, ranging from common sleep positions to various injuries and conditions. Understanding these causes can help you identify the underlying issue and take steps towards finding relief. So, let’s dive in and explore the common causes of shoulder pain after waking up.

Causes of Shoulder Pain After Waking Up

Common Sleep Positions

The way you sleep can have a significant impact on your shoulder health. Some sleep positions put more strain on your shoulder joints and muscles, leading to pain and discomfort in the morning. Sleeping on your side with your arm placed under your head or pillow, for example, can cause compression and impingement of the shoulder joint. This can result in aches and stiffness when you wake up. Similarly, sleeping on your stomach with your arm stretched out in front of you can also contribute to shoulder pain.

Muscle Imbalances

Muscle imbalances can also play a role in shoulder pain after waking up. Imbalances between the muscles around the shoulder joint, such as the rotator cuff muscles, can lead to improper alignment and increased stress on certain areas. Over time, this can cause pain and discomfort, especially after prolonged periods of inactivity during sleep. Strengthening and stretching exercises targeted at the shoulder muscles can help correct these imbalances and alleviate morning shoulder pain.

Causes of Shoulder Pain After Waking Up

Rotator Cuff Injuries

Injuries to the rotator cuff, a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, can cause significant shoulder pain upon waking up. Rotator cuff injuries can occur due to repetitive motions, trauma, or degenerative changes in the tendon over time. These injuries can lead to inflammation, weakness, and restricted range of motion in the shoulder joint. Seeking proper medical evaluation and treatment is crucial if you suspect a rotator cuff injury as the cause of your morning shoulder pain.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, scientifically known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by the gradual loss of shoulder mobility and increased pain. It typically develops in three stages – freezing, frozen, and thawing – with each stage lasting several months. During the freezing stage, shoulder pain tends to be more prominent, especially in the mornings. The precise cause of frozen shoulder is unclear, but it is associated with inflammation and thickening of the shoulder joint capsule. Physical therapy, medication, and occasionally surgery may be necessary to manage this condition.

Causes of Shoulder Pain After Waking Up

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

Shoulder impingement syndrome occurs when the rotator cuff tendons become compressed and irritated within the narrow space between the shoulder joint bones. This compression can be exacerbated by certain sleep positions, leading to morning shoulder pain. Repetitive overhead motions, poor posture, and muscle imbalances contribute to the development of this condition. Treatment options include rest, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, and in more severe cases, surgery.


Arthritis, a joint inflammation condition, can also be a cause of shoulder pain after waking up. Osteoarthritis, commonly referred to as wear-and-tear arthritis, is the most prevalent type of arthritis affecting the shoulder joint. It occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the joint gradually breaks down over time. Morning stiffness and pain are common symptoms of shoulder arthritis. Management strategies for shoulder arthritis may involve pain medication, physical therapy, lifestyle modifications, and occasionally surgical intervention.


Bursitis occurs when the bursae, small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints, become inflamed. In the shoulder, the subacromial bursa is particularly prone to inflammation, leading to bursitis. This condition can cause morning shoulder pain and tenderness. Activities that involve repetitive overhead motions, such as lifting weights or throwing a ball, can contribute to the development of subacromial bursitis. Treatment for bursitis typically includes rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, and sometimes corticosteroid injections.


Tendonitis, also known as tendinitis, is the inflammation of a tendon, the thick fibrous tissue that connects muscle to bone. In the shoulder, the tendons of the rotator cuff are particularly vulnerable to tendonitis. Overuse, repetitive motions, and age-related degeneration are common causes of shoulder tendonitis. Morning shoulder pain is often a prominent symptom, which may improve as the day goes on. Rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, and sometimes corticosteroid injections are typical treatment approaches for shoulder tendonitis.

Labral Tears

Labral tears refer to injuries in the ring of cartilage, called the labrum, that lines the socket of the shoulder joint. These tears can cause pain, instability, and restricted range of motion. Labral tears can be caused by trauma or repetitive motions, such as those involved in certain sports or occupations. Morning shoulder pain can be one of the manifestations of a labral tear. Treatment options vary depending on the severity of the tear and may include physical therapy, medication, and in some cases, surgical repair.

Sleeping on an Unsuitable Mattress

Lastly, sleeping on an unsuitable mattress can contribute to shoulder pain upon waking up. A mattress that is too firm or too soft can affect the alignment of your shoulders and spine, leading to discomfort. It is essential to find a mattress that provides adequate support and cushioning for your body, taking into account your weight, sleeping position, and personal preferences.

In conclusion, shoulder pain after waking up can have various causes, ranging from sleep positions to injuries and conditions. Identifying the underlying cause of your morning shoulder pain is essential for effective treatment and relief. If your shoulder pain persists or worsens, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and appropriate management.

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