18 May 2024
Say goodbye to sleepless nights! Discover the causes of shoulder pain at night while sleeping and find solutions to get a peaceful, well-rested shoulder.

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with a sharp pain in your shoulder that just won’t let you find comfort again? If so, you’re not alone. Many people experience shoulder pain specifically while sleeping, and it can be quite bothersome. In this article, we will explore the various causes of shoulder pain at night and offer potential solutions to help you get a peaceful night’s sleep. From incorrect sleeping positions to underlying medical conditions, we will unravel the mysteries behind the discomfort that keeps you awake. So, get ready to bid farewell to those sleepless nights and say hello to a well-rested shoulder!

Causes of Shoulder Pain at Night While Sleeping

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with a sharp pain in your shoulder? If so, you are not alone. Many people experience shoulder pain at night while sleeping, and it can be quite disruptive to your sleep and overall quality of life. In this article, we will explore the various causes of shoulder pain at night, from muscle imbalances to mattress and pillow issues, and provide insights on how to alleviate the discomfort.

Causes of Shoulder Pain at Night While Sleeping

Muscle Imbalances

Muscle imbalances can contribute to shoulder pain at night while sleeping. When certain muscles in the shoulder region are tight or overactive, while others are weak or underactive, it can create undue stress and tension in the joint. Common imbalances include tight chest muscles and weak upper back and shoulder muscles, often stemming from poor posture habits.

If you frequently find yourself slouching or hunching over, it’s likely that your chest muscles are tight while your upper back and shoulder muscles are weak. This muscle imbalance can cause strain on the shoulder joint, especially during sleep when your body is in a relaxed state. Focusing on exercises that stretch the chest muscles and strengthen the upper back and shoulder muscles can help alleviate the pain.

Frozen Shoulder

Another potential cause of shoulder pain at night while sleeping is a condition called frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis. This condition occurs when the connective tissue surrounding the shoulder joint becomes inflamed, leading to stiffness and a limited range of motion.

Frozen shoulder can cause significant discomfort during sleep, as it restricts movement and puts strain on the joint. The condition typically progresses through three stages: freezing, frozen, and thawing. During the freezing stage, pain gradually increases and range of motion decreases. In the frozen stage, the pain may subside, but mobility remains severely limited. Lastly, in the thawing stage, pain diminishes, and range of motion gradually improves.

Treatment options for frozen shoulder include physical therapy, stretching exercises, pain medications, and in some cases, corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation.

Causes of Shoulder Pain at Night While Sleeping

Rotator Cuff Injuries

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, providing stability and facilitating movement. However, these structures can be prone to strains or tears, especially with repetitive overuse or sudden injury.

Rotator cuff injuries can cause significant discomfort at night, as lying on the affected shoulder puts pressure on the damaged area. Symptoms of a rotator cuff injury include pain, weakness, and limited range of motion. Treatment options may vary depending on the severity of the injury, ranging from conservative measures such as rest, ice, and physical therapy, to more invasive interventions like corticosteroid injections or surgery.

Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement occurs when the tendons or bursa within the shoulder joint become pinched, resulting in pain and inflammation. This condition can be caused by various factors, such as repetitive overhead movements, trauma, or bone spurs.

People with shoulder impingement often experience heightened pain while sleeping, particularly when lying on the affected shoulder. Along with pain, symptoms may include weakness, difficulty reaching or lifting objects, and a clicking or grinding sensation. Treatment for shoulder impingement typically involves rest, activity modification, physical therapy, and occasionally, corticosteroid injections or surgery.

Causes of Shoulder Pain at Night While Sleeping


Bursitis refers to the inflammation of fluid-filled sacs called bursae, which are located throughout the body, including the shoulder joint. The bursae act as cushions between bones, tendons, and muscles, reducing friction and facilitating smooth movement.

When the bursae in the shoulder become inflamed, it can lead to pain and discomfort, especially when lying on the affected side during sleep. Causes of bursitis can include repetitive movements, trauma, or underlying medical conditions such as arthritis or infection. To relieve shoulder bursitis, treatment may involve rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, or in some cases, corticosteroid injections.


Tendinitis occurs when a tendon becomes inflamed, causing pain and tenderness in the affected area. In the shoulder, tendinitis often stems from overuse or repetitive motions, such as throwing, lifting, or reaching overhead.

People with shoulder tendinitis may experience pain and discomfort at night, especially when lying on the affected side. Treatment typically involves rest, ice, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical therapy, and avoiding activities that aggravate the condition. In severe cases, corticosteroid injections or surgery may be necessary.


Arthritis is a common cause of shoulder pain, particularly in older adults. Two primary types of arthritis can affect the shoulder joint: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that occurs when the protective cartilage in the joints wears down over time, leading to pain, stiffness, and limited mobility. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes joint inflammation and can affect multiple joints, including the shoulder.

Both forms of arthritis can contribute to shoulder pain at night while sleeping. Managing arthritis pain often involves a combination of medications, physical therapy, lifestyle modifications, and in some cases, surgical intervention.


Shoulder instability refers to a condition where the shoulder joint becomes loose or dislocates repeatedly. This can cause pain, weakness, and a feeling of the shoulder “giving way.”

Individuals with a dislocated shoulder or recurrent instability may find it particularly uncomfortable to sleep on the affected side. Treatment options for shoulder instability can range from conservative measures like physical therapy and bracing, to surgical interventions to repair or stabilize the joint.

Mattress and Pillow

While many shoulder pain causes originate from within the body, external factors such as an inadequate mattress or pillow can also contribute to nighttime discomfort. Sleeping on an unsupportive mattress or using the wrong pillow height can result in poor spinal alignment and increased pressure on the shoulder joint.

Finding the right sleep setup is crucial for reducing shoulder pain at night. It is recommended to choose a medium-firm mattress that provides adequate support and promotes proper spinal alignment. Additionally, using a contour pillow that cradles your head and neck can help reduce stress on the shoulder joint.

In conclusion, shoulder pain at night while sleeping can have various causes, ranging from muscle imbalances and injuries to external factors like mattress and pillow choice. Identifying the underlying cause of your shoulder pain and implementing appropriate treatment strategies, whether through exercise, physical therapy, medication, or lifestyle modifications, can help alleviate discomfort and improve the quality of your sleep.

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