20 July 2024
Discover the common causes of shoulder pain upon waking up. From frozen shoulder to sleeping position, understand what might be behind your discomfort.

Have you ever experienced the frustration of waking up with shoulder pain? It can be a perplexing and inconvenient way to start your day. In this article, we will explore some common causes of shoulder pain that occur specifically upon waking up. Understanding these causes can help you find relief and improve the quality of your sleep. So, if your shoulder hurts when you wake up, keep reading to discover what might be behind this discomfort.

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain upon Waking up

Waking up with shoulder pain can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience. There are several common causes that can contribute to this issue, and understanding them can help you find the appropriate treatment and relief. From conditions like frozen shoulder and rotator cuff tendinitis to factors like sleeping position, let’s explore the various causes of shoulder pain upon waking up.

Frozen Shoulder

Adhesive Capsulitis

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition that affects the shoulder joint and leads to stiffness and limited range of motion. People with frozen shoulder often experience pain and difficulty moving their shoulder, especially in the morning. This condition can be caused by prolonged immobilization, diabetes, or shoulder injury. Treatment options may include physical therapy, medication, and in severe cases, surgical intervention.

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain upon Waking up

Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

Definition and Overview

Rotator cuff tendinitis refers to the inflammation of tendons and muscles in the rotator cuff, which is a group of muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint. This condition commonly occurs due to repetitive overhead motions or repetitive stress on the shoulder joint. People with rotator cuff tendinitis often experience pain that worsens during sleep and upon waking up. Treatment involves rest, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, and sometimes corticosteroid injections.


Inflammatory Condition

Bursitis is an inflammatory condition that affects the small fluid-filled sacs called bursae, which cushion the bones, tendons, and muscles near the joints. When the bursae become inflamed, it can result in shoulder pain, especially upon waking up. Bursitis can be caused by repetitive motion, trauma, or underlying conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment options include rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, and in some cases, corticosteroid injections.

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain upon Waking up

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

Definition and Overview

Shoulder impingement syndrome occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff become compressed or irritated within the shoulder joint. This can cause pain and discomfort, particularly upon waking up or during activities that involve overhead movements. Common causes of shoulder impingement syndrome include repetitive overhead motions, muscle imbalances, and bone spurs. Treatment may involve rest, physical therapy, strengthening exercises, and in severe cases, surgery.


Arthritis is a common cause of shoulder pain upon waking up and can be classified into two main types: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.


Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joint wears down over time. This can result in pain, stiffness, and limited mobility in the shoulder. Osteoarthritis commonly affects people as they age, and the symptoms can be more pronounced in the morning. Treatment for osteoarthritis may include medication, physical therapy, lifestyle modifications, and in severe cases, joint replacement surgery.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation in the joints, including the shoulder joint. This condition can lead to morning stiffness and pain in the shoulders. Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis may involve medication, physical therapy, exercise, and lifestyle changes to manage symptoms and slow down joint damage.

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain upon Waking up

Dislocated Shoulder

Definition and Overview

A dislocated shoulder occurs when the upper arm bone pops out of the shoulder socket. This can cause severe pain and limited mobility, including pain upon waking up. Dislocated shoulders are often the result of traumatic injuries, such as falls or sports-related accidents. Treatment for a dislocated shoulder typically involves relocating the joint, followed by immobilization with a sling and physical therapy for rehabilitation.

Labrum Tear

Definition and Overview

The labrum is a ring of soft tissue that surrounds the shoulder socket, providing stability to the joint. A labrum tear refers to a tear or damage to this tissue, often resulting in shoulder pain, weakness, and instability. Labrum tears can occur due to trauma, repetitive shoulder motions, or shoulder dislocations. Treatment options for a labrum tear depend on the severity of the injury but can include physical therapy, medication, and in some cases, surgical repair.

Muscle Strain

Muscle strains can occur in the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint, leading to pain and discomfort, particularly upon waking up. These strains can be caused by overuse, improper lifting techniques, or sudden movements. Treatment for a muscle strain may involve rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE), along with exercises to strengthen the muscles and promote healing.

Nerve Compression

Nerve compression in the shoulder, such as brachial plexus injury or nerve impingement, can result in pain and numbness. These conditions can occur due to trauma, repetitive motion, posture issues, or underlying medical conditions. Treatment options for nerve compression may include medications, physical therapy, nerve blocks, and in severe cases, surgery.

Sleeping Position

Impact on Shoulder Health

Your sleeping position can also play a significant role in causing or worsening shoulder pain upon waking up. Sleeping on your side with inadequate support or placing excessive pressure on the affected shoulder can lead to discomfort. Similarly, sleeping on your stomach with your arms extended overhead can strain the shoulder joint. It is essential to maintain a neutral spine alignment and provide proper support to the shoulders while sleeping.

Best Sleeping Positions

The best sleeping positions for shoulder health are:

  1. Back Sleeping: Sleeping on your back with a supportive pillow helps maintain proper spinal alignment and reduces strain on the shoulders. Consider using a pillow that provides support to the neck and the natural curvature of the spine.

  2. Side Sleeping: If you prefer sleeping on your side, use a pillow that adequately supports your head and neck, keeping them aligned with your spine. Additionally, placing a pillow between your arms can help prevent them from falling forward and placing excessive pressure on the shoulder joint.

Avoiding Poor Sleeping Posture

To avoid poor sleeping posture and potential shoulder pain, consider the following tips:

  1. Choose a supportive mattress and pillow that promote proper spinal alignment.
  2. Avoid sleeping on your stomach with your arms extended overhead, as this can strain the shoulder joint.
  3. If you have shoulder pain or discomfort, try using a pillow or cushion specifically designed to support the shoulders during sleep.
  4. Practice good sleep hygiene, such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule and creating a comfortable sleep environment.

In conclusion, shoulder pain upon waking up can be caused by various factors, including frozen shoulder, rotator cuff tendinitis, bursitis, shoulder impingement syndrome, arthritis, dislocated shoulder, labrum tear, muscle strain, nerve compression, and even sleeping position. It is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional to accurately diagnose the underlying cause of your shoulder pain and determine the appropriate treatment plan for relief and improved shoulder health.

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