23 May 2024
Learn practical techniques and tips to relieve shoulder pain during the night. Wake up feeling refreshed and pain-free. Say goodbye to sleepless nights!

Are you tired of tossing and turning all night due to shoulder pain? If so, you’re not alone. Many people suffer from shoulder pain that seems to intensify when they lay down to sleep. Fortunately, there are simple and effective ways to find relief. In this article, we will explore some practical techniques and tips on how to ease shoulder pain during the night, allowing you to wake up feeling refreshed and pain-free. Say goodbye to sleepless nights and hello to sweet dreams!

How to Relieve Shoulder Pain During the Night

Table of Contents

Understanding Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain can be a troublesome and uncomfortable experience, especially when it occurs during the night. Understanding the causes and types of shoulder pain is crucial in effectively managing and finding relief for this condition.

Causes of Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain can be caused by a variety of factors. Some common causes include:

  1. Rotator cuff injuries: A tear or strain in the rotator cuff, which is a group of tendons that support the shoulder joint.
  2. Frozen shoulder: A condition characterized by stiffness and limited range of motion in the shoulder joint, often accompanied by pain.
  3. Shoulder impingement: The compression of tendons and bursa in the shoulder joint, causing pain and limited movement.
  4. Bursitis: Inflammation of the bursa, small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the shoulder joint.
  5. Arthritis: Various forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, can cause shoulder pain.
  6. Shoulder dislocation: When the upper arm bone pops out of the shoulder socket, causing intense pain and instability.
  7. Referred pain: Pain originating from another part of the body, such as the neck or spine, that radiates to the shoulder.

Understanding the specific cause of your shoulder pain is essential in determining the appropriate treatment and management techniques.

Common Types of Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain can manifest in different ways, depending on the underlying cause. Some common types of shoulder pain include:

  1. Sharp pain: Intense and sudden pain that may be triggered by certain movements or activities.
  2. Dull ache: Persistent and throbbing pain that may be present at rest or during movement.
  3. Stiffness: Limited range of motion and difficulty moving the shoulder joint.
  4. Radiating pain: Pain that extends from the shoulder down the arm or up into the neck and jaw.
  5. Nighttime pain: Pain that specifically occurs or worsens during the night, leading to disrupted sleep.

Identifying the specific type of shoulder pain you are experiencing can assist in determining the appropriate strategies for relief.

Why Shoulder Pain Occurs During the Night

Experiencing shoulder pain during the night can be particularly frustrating, as it can disrupt your sleep and lead to fatigue and irritability. There are several reasons why shoulder pain may occur or worsen during the night:

  1. Sleeping positions: Certain sleeping positions can place strain or pressure on the shoulder joint, exacerbating existing pain.
  2. Pillow choice: Improper pillow support can lead to poor alignment of the neck and shoulder, contributing to shoulder pain.
  3. Lack of movement: When we sleep, we often remain in the same position for extended periods, leading to stiffness and increased discomfort.
  4. Increased inflammation: Some conditions, such as arthritis or bursitis, may cause inflammation that becomes more pronounced during periods of rest.
  5. Muscle tension: Stress and muscle tension can increase during the night, leading to muscle imbalances and shoulder pain.

Understanding the reasons behind nocturnal shoulder pain can help guide you in finding effective strategies for managing and alleviating your symptoms.

Diagnosing Shoulder Pain

When experiencing shoulder pain, it is essential to undergo proper diagnosis to determine the underlying cause. Diagnosing shoulder pain typically involves a combination of medical history and physical examination, as well as diagnostic tests and imaging.

Medical History and Physical Examination

During the medical history assessment, your healthcare provider will ask you questions about your symptoms, including the location, intensity, and duration of your shoulder pain. They may also inquire about any previous injuries or medical conditions that may be contributing to your pain. Providing accurate and detailed information is crucial for an accurate diagnosis.

A physical examination will generally involve assessing the range of motion in your shoulder joint, feeling for any abnormalities or swelling, and evaluating your posture. Your healthcare provider may also perform certain tests to determine which specific movements or positions provoke your pain.

Diagnostic Tests and Imaging

In some cases, further diagnostic tests or imaging may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis or provide a more detailed understanding of your shoulder pain. These tests may include:

  1. X-rays: X-ray images can help identify any bone abnormalities, fractures, or the presence of arthritis.
  2. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): This imaging technique provides detailed images of the soft tissues, such as tendons, cartilage, and ligaments, allowing for a more accurate diagnosis.
  3. Ultrasound: Ultrasound uses sound waves to produce images of the internal structures of the shoulder, helping to assess the condition of the tendons, muscles, and other soft tissues.
  4. Computed Tomography (CT) scan: CT scans combine multiple X-ray images to create cross-sectional views of the shoulder, providing a more in-depth analysis of the structures involved.
  5. Blood tests: Blood tests may be conducted to check for signs of inflammation or underlying medical conditions that could be contributing to your shoulder pain.

These diagnostic tests and imaging techniques play a crucial role in determining the appropriate course of treatment and management strategies for your shoulder pain.

Managing Shoulder Pain at Night

When it comes to managing shoulder pain at night, there are several strategies you can employ to find relief and improve your sleep quality.

Using Proper Sleeping Positions

Choosing the right sleeping position is essential for reducing shoulder pain during the night. The most recommended sleeping position for shoulder pain is lying on your back with a pillow supporting the neck and a small pillow or rolled-up towel under the affected arm for added support. This position helps maintain the natural alignment of the spine and minimizes pressure on the shoulder joint.

Alternatively, if sleeping on your back is uncomfortable, you can try sleeping on the side opposite to the affected shoulder with a pillow placed between the arms for added support and alignment.

Avoid sleeping on the affected side or your stomach, as these positions can place additional strain on the shoulder.

Choosing the Right Pillow

The choice of the right pillow can significantly impact shoulder pain at night. Opt for a pillow that provides adequate support to the neck and promotes proper spinal alignment. Memory foam or contour pillows are often recommended for individuals with shoulder pain, as they conform to the shape of your body and distribute pressure evenly.

Avoid overly thick or stiff pillows, as they can cause the neck and shoulder to be in an unnatural position, leading to increased pain and discomfort.

Supporting the Shoulder with Cushions

If you find it challenging to maintain a proper sleeping position, using cushions or pillows strategically placed can provide additional support and help alleviate shoulder pain. Placing a rolled-up towel or small cushion under the affected shoulder can help keep it elevated and supported, reducing strain on the joint.

Additionally, using a body pillow or hugging a cushion can help prevent rolling onto the affected shoulder during sleep, minimizing the risk of exacerbating pain.

Using Heat or Cold Therapy

Applying heat or cold therapy can provide significant pain relief for shoulder pain. Heat therapy helps relax the muscles and increase blood flow, reducing stiffness and promoting healing. You can use a heating pad, warm towel, or take a warm shower before bed to alleviate shoulder pain.

On the other hand, cold therapy can help numb pain and reduce inflammation. Applying an ice pack wrapped in a thin towel to the affected shoulder for 15-20 minutes can help alleviate nighttime shoulder pain.

Understanding the Benefits of Regular Exercise

Regular exercise and physical activity play a vital role in managing and preventing shoulder pain, including nighttime discomfort. Engaging in a well-rounded exercise routine that includes strength training, stretching, and cardiovascular exercises can help improve flexibility, strengthen the muscles supporting the shoulder joint, and promote overall joint health.

Exercises that target the shoulder, neck, and upper back muscles can help alleviate shoulder pain by improving posture, reducing muscle imbalances, and increasing stability around the shoulder joint. Stretching exercises, in particular, can help relieve muscle tension, improve range of motion, and decrease nighttime pain.

Speak to a healthcare professional or physical therapist to create an exercise plan that is tailored to your specific needs and abilities.

Stretching Exercises for Shoulder Pain Relief

Stretching exercises can be an effective way to relieve shoulder pain, reduce muscle tension, and improve flexibility. Here are some stretching exercises that can help alleviate nighttime shoulder pain:

Neck and Shoulder Release

  • Sit or stand with good posture.
  • Slowly tilt your head to the right, bringing your right ear towards your right shoulder.
  • Place your right hand on the top of your head and gently apply downward pressure to increase the stretch.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the left side.
  • Perform 2-3 sets on each side.

Crossover Shoulder Stretch

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Extend your right arm straight out in front of you, then take your left arm and bring it across your chest, holding just above the elbow.
  • Gently pull your left arm towards your chest, feeling the stretch in your right shoulder.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
  • Perform 2-3 sets on each side.

Doorway Chest Stretch

  • Stand in a doorway with your arms out to your sides, bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Place your forearms and hands on the doorframe.
  • Take a step forward, allowing your chest to open up and feel the stretch in your shoulders and chest.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then step back and repeat for 2-3 sets.

Shoulder Rolls

  • Sit or stand with good posture.
  • Roll your shoulders in a circular motion, moving them forward, up, back, and then down.
  • Perform 10-15 shoulder rolls in each direction, then reverse the direction for an additional 10-15 rolls.

Standing Wall Stretch

  • Stand with your back against a wall.
  • Raise your arms to shoulder height and place your hands and forearms against the wall.
  • Slowly walk your feet forward, allowing your body to lean into the stretch and feel the stretch in your shoulders and upper back.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then walk your feet back and repeat for 2-3 sets.

Performing these stretching exercises regularly, especially before bedtime, can help relieve nighttime shoulder pain and promote relaxation before sleep.

How to Relieve Shoulder Pain During the Night

Strengthening Exercises for Shoulder Pain Relief

In addition to stretching exercises, strengthening exercises can help alleviate shoulder pain and improve overall shoulder joint stability. Here are some strengthening exercises that target the muscles supporting the shoulder:

Resistance Band Exercises

  • Attach a resistance band to a stable object, such as a doorknob or post.
  • Hold the other end of the band with your hand, keeping your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle and tucked into your side.
  • Slowly extend your arm out to the side, against the resistance of the band, until your arm is straight.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat for 10-15 repetitions on each side.
  • Perform 2-3 sets.

Shoulder Blade Squeeze

  • Sit or stand with good posture and your arms relaxed at your sides.
  • Imagine squeezing a pencil between your shoulder blades and gently squeeze them together.
  • Hold the squeeze for 5-10 seconds, then release.
  • Repeat for 10-15 repetitions, performing 2-3 sets.

External Rotation with Dumbbells

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms bent at a 90-degree angle, elbows tucked into your sides.
  • Keeping your elbows in place, slowly rotate your forearms and hands outward until they are parallel with the floor.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
  • Perform 2-3 sets.

Prone Row

  • Lie facedown on a mat or bench with a dumbbell in each hand, arms extended towards the floor.
  • Keeping your elbows close to your sides, squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the dumbbells up towards your sides.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells back down and repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
  • Perform 2-3 sets.


  • Start in a high plank position, with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your body in a straight line.
  • Lower your body towards the floor, bending your elbows, until your chest is just above the ground.
  • Push through your hands to extend your arms and return to the starting position.
  • Perform 10-15 push-ups, modifying the intensity as needed.
  • Perform 2-3 sets.

Incorporating these strengthening exercises into your regular exercise routine can help improve shoulder strength, stability, and reduce nighttime shoulder pain.

Preventing Shoulder Pain at Night

Prevention plays a crucial role in managing shoulder pain and ensuring a comfortable night’s sleep. Here are some strategies to help prevent shoulder pain at night:

Maintaining Good Posture

Practicing good posture throughout the day is essential for preventing shoulder pain, including during the night. When sitting or standing, aim to keep your shoulders relaxed and pulled back, with your ears aligned over your shoulders.

Avoid slouching or hunching forward, as this can place unnecessary strain on the shoulder joint and contribute to pain.

Avoiding Overuse of the Shoulder

Avoid repetitive or excessive movements or activities that place strain on the shoulder. If you engage in repetitive motions at work or during hobbies, take regular breaks to rest your shoulder muscles and avoid overuse.

Listening to your body’s signals and slowing down or modifying activities when you start to feel discomfort can help prevent shoulder pain from worsening.

Taking Regular Breaks During Repetitive Activities

If you engage in repetitive activities, such as typing on a keyboard or using a computer mouse for extended periods, it is essential to take regular breaks and stretch your shoulder and neck muscles. Gentle stretching exercises, such as rolling the shoulders and neck stretches, can help alleviate muscle tension and prevent stiffness.

Using Ergonomic Equipment

Using ergonomic equipment, such as an adjustable chair, ergonomic keyboard and mouse, and wrist supports, can help promote proper alignment and reduce strain on the shoulder and neck muscles. Investing in an ergonomic pillow or mattress can also help maintain proper spinal alignment during sleep.

Modifying Sleeping Environment

Creating a sleep environment that promotes comfort and relaxation can significantly contribute to preventing shoulder pain at night. Ensure your mattress and pillow provide adequate support and maintain proper alignment for your body. Consider using a pillow specifically designed for shoulder pain or placing extra support under the affected shoulder.

Additionally, using blackout curtains, earplugs, or white noise machines can help create a conducive sleep environment, reducing stress, and promoting restful sleep.

How to Relieve Shoulder Pain During the Night

Seeking Professional Help

While self-care strategies may be effective for managing mild to moderate shoulder pain, it is essential to seek professional help if your symptoms persist or worsen. Consulting a doctor or orthopedic specialist can provide further guidance and treatment options.

Consulting a Doctor or Orthopedic Specialist

If your shoulder pain persists for more than a few weeks, becomes severe, or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it is advisable to consult a doctor or orthopedic specialist. They can conduct a comprehensive examination, review your medical history, and order any necessary tests or imaging to evaluate your condition thoroughly.

Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation

Physical therapy can play a significant role in managing and rehabilitating shoulder pain. A physical therapist can assess your condition, tailor an exercise program to your specific needs, and provide guidance on proper techniques and movements. They may also incorporate other treatment modalities, such as manual therapy or electrotherapy, to promote healing and alleviate pain.

Potential Surgical Interventions

In some cases, shoulder pain may require surgical intervention. If conservative treatments have been unsuccessful in providing relief, or if there is significant damage to the shoulder joint or surrounding structures, a surgeon may recommend surgery. Surgical options may include arthroscopy to repair or remove damaged tissue, joint replacement, or other procedures depending on the specific condition.

Working closely with healthcare professionals will ensure you receive the most appropriate care for your shoulder pain and maximize your chances of finding long-term relief.

Medications and Home Remedies

In addition to self-care strategies, there are various medications and home remedies that can provide temporary relief for shoulder pain. However, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new medication or supplement regimen, especially if you have underlying medical conditions or are taking other medications.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

Common non-prescription pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen, can help temporarily alleviate shoulder pain. However, it is crucial to follow the recommended dosage and use these medications for short-term relief.

Topical Analgesics

Topical analgesics, such as creams or ointments containing ingredients like menthol or capsaicin, can provide localized pain relief when applied to the affected shoulder. These products work by numbing the area or reducing inflammation, providing temporary relief.

Natural Remedies and Herbal Supplements

Some individuals find relief from shoulder pain through the use of natural remedies and herbal supplements. However, it is important to remember that these remedies may not have sufficient scientific evidence to support their effectiveness, and their safety and interactions with other medications may not be well-known. It is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or naturopathic doctor before using any natural remedies or herbal supplements.

Rest and Relaxation Techniques

Taking the time to rest and engage in relaxation techniques can help reduce stress and promote healing. Practice deep breathing exercises, meditation, or gentle yoga to relax both the mind and body. Getting enough restful sleep also plays a vital role in the management of shoulder pain.

Remember to listen to your body and prioritize self-care to promote healing and reduce shoulder pain.

Understanding the Role of Posture in Shoulder Pain

Posture plays a significant role in shoulder pain, as poor alignment and prolonged slouching can place excessive strain on the shoulder joint and surrounding muscles. Understanding the impact of posture on shoulder pain can help guide you towards better habits and posture corrections.

Maintaining Proper Alignment

Proper alignment involves maintaining a neutral spine position and ensuring that the shoulders, hips, and ears are in alignment. Slouching or rounding the shoulders puts excessive stress on the shoulder joint, contributing to pain. Conscious efforts to maintain proper alignment throughout the day can help prevent and alleviate shoulder pain.

Evaluating Daily Activities and Habits

Assess your daily activities and habits to identify any factors contributing to poor posture and shoulder pain. Are you spending prolonged periods sitting at a desk or using electronic devices with your shoulders hunched forward? Are you carrying heavy bags or backpacks that strain your shoulder muscles? Awareness of these habits can help you make necessary changes to improve your posture and reduce shoulder pain.

Improve Posture through Exercises

Exercises that target the muscles supporting proper posture can help improve alignment and reduce shoulder pain. Strengthening exercises that focus on the upper back, core, and shoulder muscles can help stabilize the shoulder joint and counteract the effects of poor posture.

Additionally, practicing postural exercises, such as shoulder blade retractions or neck retractions, can help improve muscle balance and promote better posture.

Using Posture Correctors and Braces

Posture correctors and braces can provide external support and help remind you to maintain proper alignment. These devices can assist in reducing slouching and supporting the shoulder joint. However, it is crucial to use them in moderation and consult a healthcare professional for guidance on proper use and duration.

Consulting a Physical Therapist for Posture Correction

If you are struggling with maintaining good posture or experiencing persistent shoulder pain, consulting a physical therapist can be beneficial. A physical therapist can assess your posture, identify any muscle imbalances, and provide exercises and stretches to improve your posture and reduce shoulder pain. They can also help you develop strategies for incorporating better posture habits into daily activities.

When to Seek Immediate Medical Attention

While most cases of shoulder pain can be managed with self-care and conservative measures, there are instances where immediate medical attention is necessary. The following symptoms indicate a need for urgent evaluation by a healthcare professional:

Severe Shoulder Pain or Sudden Injury

If you experience sudden and severe shoulder pain, especially following a traumatic event or injury, seek immediate medical attention. This could indicate a fracture, dislocation, or other serious injury.

Loss of Shoulder Function

If you are unable to move your shoulder or experience a sudden loss of strength or sensation in the arm, it is important to consult a healthcare professional promptly. This may indicate nerve involvement or damage that requires immediate medical attention.

Visible Deformity

If you notice any visible deformity in your shoulder, such as an abnormally protruding bone or joint, it is crucial to seek medical attention as soon as possible. This could indicate a dislocation or fracture that requires medical intervention.

Symptoms Accompanied by Fever or Chills

Shoulder pain accompanied by fever or chills may suggest an infection or systemic illness. Prompt medical evaluation is necessary to identify and appropriately treat the underlying cause.

Persistent Shoulder Pain

If your shoulder pain persists or worsens despite self-care strategies and conservative measures, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional. Persistent pain may indicate an underlying condition or injury that requires further evaluation and treatment.

Remember, it is always better to err on the side of caution and seek medical attention when unsure about the severity or underlying cause of your shoulder pain.

In conclusion, shoulder pain during the night can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience. Understanding the causes, types, and methods for diagnosing shoulder pain is crucial for effective management and finding relief. Through proper sleeping positions, the right pillow choice, shoulder support, heat or cold therapy, regular exercise, and stretching and strengthening exercises, you can effectively manage and alleviate shoulder pain. Furthermore, focusing on good posture, modifying daily activities, and seeking professional help when necessary can aid in preventing and addressing shoulder pain. By following these strategies and seeking appropriate medical attention, you can take steps towards a pain-free and restful night’s sleep.

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