26 May 2024
Alleviate shoulder pain upon waking up with effective strategies. Explore tips for sleeping positions, mattress quality, exercises, and more. Say goodbye to discomfort!

You know that feeling – waking up in the morning to find that your shoulder is sore and achy, even after a full night’s rest. It can be incredibly frustrating and distressing, especially when it affects your daily activities. But fear not! In this article, we will explore effective and practical strategies to alleviate shoulder pain upon waking up. Whether it’s due to a poor sleeping position, a previous injury, or joint inflammation, these tips will help you find relief and start your day off right. So say goodbye to the discomfort and hello to a pain-free morning routine!

Causes of Shoulder Pain Upon Waking Up

How to Alleviate Shoulder Pain Upon Waking Up

Sleeping Position

One of the main causes of shoulder pain upon waking up is the sleeping position. If you sleep in a position that puts excessive pressure on your shoulder joint and muscles, it can lead to discomfort and pain. Sleeping on your stomach with your arm extended above your head, for example, can strain your shoulder and result in pain the next morning. It is important to find a sleeping position that allows your shoulder to rest in a natural and supported position.

Mattress and Pillow Quality

The quality of your mattress and pillow can greatly impact your shoulder health. A mattress that is too firm or too soft may not provide adequate support to your shoulders, leading to pain and discomfort. Similarly, using a pillow that is either too flat or too high can place unnecessary strain on your shoulder joints. It is recommended to invest in a mattress and pillow that are specifically designed to support your shoulders and promote proper alignment.

Injury or Overuse

Shoulder pain upon waking up can also be attributed to a previous injury or overuse of the shoulder joint. If you have recently engaged in activities that require repetitive shoulder movements, such as weightlifting or throwing a ball, it can lead to inflammation and muscle strain. Additionally, a previous shoulder injury, such as a dislocation or fracture, can result in chronic pain that is exacerbated during sleep.


Arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, can cause shoulder pain that is more pronounced in the morning. These conditions involve inflammation and deterioration of the joint cartilage, leading to stiffness and discomfort. When sleeping, the reduced movement and prolonged resting position can contribute to heightened pain upon waking up.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, is a condition that causes pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint. It occurs when the connective tissue surrounding the shoulder joint thickens and restricts movement. Those with frozen shoulder often experience the most pain in the morning, as the joint has been immobile during sleep.


Tendonitis refers to the inflammation of the tendons in the shoulder. It can be caused by repetitive movements or overuse of the shoulder joint. When the tendons become inflamed, it can cause pain and discomfort that is especially noticeable upon waking up.


Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursae, small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints. In the shoulder, bursitis can cause pain and swelling, particularly when lying on the affected side. The pain may worsen after a night of rest as the bursae become stiff and irritated during sleep.

Rotator Cuff Tear

A rotator cuff tear occurs when one or more of the tendons connecting the shoulder muscles to the arm bone are torn. This can result in significant shoulder pain, especially upon waking up. The pain may be more noticeable when attempting to lift or rotate the arm.

Poor Posture

Poor posture during sleep can contribute to shoulder pain upon waking up. If you sleep in a position that puts your shoulders in an unnatural alignment or places excess pressure on specific areas, it can lead to strain and discomfort. It is important to maintain good posture while sleeping to alleviate shoulder pain.

Nerve Compression

Nerve compression or impingement occurs when a nerve in the shoulder becomes compressed or pinched, leading to pain, numbness, and tingling. The compression can be caused by various factors, including sleeping in a position that puts pressure on the nerves. If you frequently wake up with shoulder pain accompanied by other nerve-related symptoms, nerve compression may be the cause.

Preventing Shoulder Pain During Sleep

Choosing the Right Sleeping Position

To prevent shoulder pain during sleep, it is crucial to choose a sleeping position that promotes proper alignment and reduces strain on the shoulders. Sleeping on your back is often recommended as it allows your shoulders to rest comfortably without excessive pressure. If you prefer to sleep on your side, placing a pillow between your arms can help maintain proper alignment.

Investing in a Supportive Mattress and Pillow

The quality of your mattress and pillow plays a significant role in preventing shoulder pain during sleep. Look for a mattress that offers adequate support, particularly in the shoulder area. A medium-firm mattress is often a good choice for shoulder health. Similarly, opt for a pillow that provides sufficient support and keeps your head and neck aligned with your spine.

Using Proper Sleep Support Aids

Using additional sleep support aids can help alleviate shoulder pain. For example, a shoulder pillow or a contoured support pillow can provide extra cushioning and support to your shoulders and neck. These aids can help maintain proper alignment and reduce pressure points.

Avoiding Overuse or Straining the Shoulders

To prevent shoulder pain upon waking up, it is important to avoid overusing or straining your shoulders during the day. Engaging in activities that require repetitive shoulder movements, such as heavy lifting or intense sports, can put excessive stress on your shoulders, leading to inflammation and pain. Be mindful of your shoulder health and take breaks or modify your activities to prevent overuse.

How to Alleviate Shoulder Pain Upon Waking Up

Practicing Good Sleep Hygiene

Practicing good sleep hygiene can contribute to overall shoulder health. Ensure you have a consistent sleep schedule, establish a relaxing bedtime routine, and create a conducive sleep environment that promotes relaxation and quality rest. A relaxed body and mind can reduce muscle tension and minimize the likelihood of waking up with shoulder pain.

Stretching and Strengthening Exercises to Relieve Shoulder Pain

Shoulder Rolls

Shoulder rolls are a simple yet effective exercise to relieve tension and improve flexibility in the shoulder joints. Start by standing or sitting tall with your arms relaxed at your sides. Slowly roll your shoulders forward in a circular motion for ten repetitions, then reverse the direction and perform ten repetitions in the opposite direction.

Pendulum Swing

The pendulum swing exercise helps to gently stretch and strengthen the muscles and tendons of the shoulder joint. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, lean forward slightly, and let your affected arm hang down. Gently swing your arm side to side, front to back, and in circular motions. Start with small movements and gradually increase the range of motion.

Doorway Stretch

The doorway stretch targets the chest and shoulder muscles, promoting flexibility and relieving tightness. Stand in a doorway and place your forearms on either side of the door frame. Lean forward slightly, allowing your chest and shoulders to gently stretch. Hold this position for 30 seconds to one minute, then release.

Crossover Arm Stretch

The crossover arm stretch focuses on stretching the muscles of the upper back and shoulders. Stand or sit upright and extend your affected arm across your chest. Use your other hand to gently pull the affected arm closer to your body, feeling the stretch in your shoulder and upper back. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Rotator Cuff Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening the rotator cuff muscles can help stabilize the shoulder joint and reduce pain. Exercises such as external and internal rotation with resistance bands or weights, shoulder blade squeezes, and overhead presses can target the rotator cuff muscles and improve strength and range of motion. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional or a qualified physical therapist before starting any specific exercises.

Scapular Retraction Exercises

Scapular retraction exercises focus on strengthening the muscles between your shoulder blades, promoting better posture and reducing shoulder pain. Stand or sit with your back straight, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and hold the contraction for 5-10 seconds. Repeat this exercise 10-15 times, gradually increasing the duration of each repetition.

How to Alleviate Shoulder Pain Upon Waking Up

Posterior Capsule Stretch

The posterior capsule stretch targets the back of the shoulder joint, improving flexibility and reducing tightness. Stand or sit upright and reach your affected arm across your chest. Use your other hand to gently pull the affected arm closer to your body, feeling the stretch in the back of your shoulder. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Active Release Technique

Active release technique (ART) is a hands-on manual therapy technique that involves the application of pressure and movement to relieve tightness and pain in the muscles and soft tissues. A qualified healthcare professional, such as a physical therapist or chiropractor, can perform ART to specifically target areas of tension and promote healing and pain relief in the shoulder.

Yoga Poses for Shoulder Relief

Certain yoga poses can help stretch and strengthen the shoulder muscles, improving flexibility and relieving pain. Poses such as downward dog, child’s pose, eagle arms, and cow face pose can target the shoulders and promote relaxation, increased blood flow, and reduced muscle tension. It is advisable to practice yoga under the guidance of a certified instructor to ensure proper alignment and technique.

Physical Therapy

If shoulder pain persists or worsens despite self-care measures, seeking professional help from a physical therapist may be beneficial. A physical therapist can assess your specific condition, develop a personalized treatment plan, and guide you through exercises and techniques to alleviate shoulder pain and improve shoulder function.

Applying Heat or Cold Therapy

Hot Compress

Applying a hot compress to the affected shoulder can help relax muscles, increase blood flow, and alleviate pain. Use a hot water bottle, heating pad, or a warm damp towel folded into a compress. Apply the hot compress to the shoulder area for 15-20 minutes, ensuring the temperature is comfortable and not too hot to avoid burns.

Cold Compress

A cold compress can be effective in reducing inflammation and numbing the shoulder area, providing temporary pain relief. Wrap an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas in a thin towel and apply it to the affected shoulder for 15-20 minutes. Take caution not to apply the cold compress directly to the skin to avoid frostbite.

Alternating Heat and Cold Therapy

Alternating between heat and cold therapy can provide a combined benefit of relaxation, pain relief, and reduced inflammation. Start with a hot compress for 10 minutes, followed by a cold compress for 5 minutes. Repeat this cycle for a total of 30 minutes, ending with a cold compress to reduce any potential swelling.

Epsom Salt Bath

Taking a warm bath with Epsom salt can help relax muscles, reduce inflammation, and alleviate shoulder pain. Add two cups of Epsom salt to a bathtub filled with warm water and soak for at least 20 minutes. The magnesium sulfate in Epsom salt can aid in muscle relaxation and promote overall pain relief.

Seeking Professional Help

Consulting a Doctor or Orthopedic Specialist

If shoulder pain persists or becomes severe, it is advisable to consult a doctor or orthopedic specialist. They can perform a thorough examination, order relevant diagnostic tests, and provide an accurate diagnosis. Based on the findings, they can recommend appropriate treatment options to address the underlying cause of your shoulder pain.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the management and rehabilitation of shoulder pain. A physical therapist can assess your condition, develop a personalized treatment plan, and guide you through exercises and interventions to relieve pain, improve mobility, and strengthen the shoulder muscles. They may also incorporate modalities such as ultrasound or electrical stimulation for enhanced healing.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can help relieve muscle tension, improve circulation, and promote relaxation in the shoulder area. A licensed massage therapist with experience in treating shoulder pain can use various massage techniques to target specific muscles and alleviate discomfort. Regular massage sessions can contribute to long-term pain management and shoulder health.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions, including shoulder pain. A chiropractor can perform manual adjustments to realign the spine and joints, reduce inflammation, and improve overall shoulder function. They may also incorporate other therapies, such as soft tissue manipulation and stretching exercises, to support your recovery.


Acupuncture is an alternative therapy that involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body to promote pain relief and healing. This ancient practice can be beneficial in reducing shoulder pain, increasing blood flow, and releasing endorphins. It is essential to seek acupuncture from a qualified practitioner to ensure safety and efficacy.

Prescription Medications

In some cases, prescription medications may be necessary to manage severe or chronic shoulder pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce inflammation and alleviate discomfort. Muscle relaxants or pain medications may also be prescribed for short-term relief. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new medication.

Surgery (if necessary)

Surgery is typically considered as a last resort when other conservative treatments fail to relieve shoulder pain. Depending on the underlying condition, surgical interventions such as arthroscopy, shoulder replacement, or rotator cuff repair may be recommended. The decision to undergo surgery should be made in consultation with an orthopedic surgeon after considering the individual’s specific circumstances and treatment goals.

In conclusion, shoulder pain upon waking up can be caused by various factors, including sleeping position, mattress and pillow quality, injury or overuse, arthritis, frozen shoulder, tendonitis, bursitis, rotator cuff tear, poor posture, and nerve compression. To prevent shoulder pain during sleep, it is important to choose the right sleeping position, invest in a supportive mattress and pillow, use proper sleep support aids, avoid overuse or straining the shoulders, and practice good sleep hygiene. Stretching and strengthening exercises, heat or cold therapy, and seeking professional help through consultation with a doctor, physical therapy, massage therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture, prescription medications, or surgery (if necessary) can also aid in relieving shoulder pain and promoting overall shoulder health. By understanding the causes and implementing preventive measures, you can alleviate shoulder pain and wake up feeling refreshed and pain-free.

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