23 May 2024
Learn effective techniques to relieve terrible shoulder pain at night and finally enjoy a peaceful night's rest. Say goodbye to sleepless nights!

Imagine lying in bed, exhausted and longing for a restful night’s sleep, but instead, you are tormented by the relentless agony of terrible shoulder pain. The excruciating discomfort seems to intensify as you toss and turn, leaving you frustrated and desperate for relief. If this scenario sounds all too familiar, fear not, for in this article, you will discover effective techniques to alleviate the torment of shoulder pain, allowing you to finally find solace and enjoy a peaceful night’s rest. Say goodbye to sleepless nights and hello to rejuvenating sleep – let’s dive into the secrets of how to relieve terrible shoulder pain at night.

Table of Contents

Causes of Terrible Shoulder Pain at Night

Rotator Cuff Injury

One possible cause of terrible shoulder pain at night is a rotator cuff injury. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, providing stability and allowing for a wide range of motion. Injury to the rotator cuff can occur due to repetitive motions or sudden trauma. The pain may worsen at night due to lying on the affected shoulder, causing irritation and inflammation.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is another common cause of shoulder pain at night. It occurs when the shoulder joint becomes stiff and painful, limiting its range of motion. This condition can be caused by injury, prolonged immobilization, or certain medical conditions. The pain at night is often intense, making it difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position.


Tendonitis is the inflammation of a tendon, which connects muscle to bone. When the tendons in the shoulder become inflamed, it can lead to shoulder pain at night. This condition is often caused by repetitive overhead movements or excessive strain on the shoulder joint. The pain may worsen at night due to increased pressure on the inflamed tendons while lying down.


Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa, small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the bones, tendons, and muscles near the joints. In the shoulder, bursitis can occur when the bursa becomes irritated or inflamed, leading to shoulder pain. The pain may be particularly noticeable at night when lying on the affected shoulder, as it can put pressure on the inflamed bursa.


Arthritis, specifically osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, can cause severe shoulder pain, including at night. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that occurs when the protective cartilage in the joints breaks down over time. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in the joints. Both types of arthritis can lead to nighttime shoulder pain due to increased joint stiffness and inflammation.

Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement occurs when the rotator cuff tendons or bursa become compressed or pinched in the shoulder joint. This can happen due to repetitive overhead movements, poor posture, or structural abnormalities in the shoulder. The pain at night may be caused by compression of the tendons or bursa while lying down, exacerbating the symptoms.

Shoulder Dislocation

A shoulder dislocation, where the upper arm bone pops out of the shoulder socket, can cause intense pain, swelling, and instability. While shoulder dislocations are often the result of traumatic injuries, they can also occur due to certain medical conditions or underlying joint instability. The pain at night may be a result of the shoulder joint trying to heal and stabilize, causing discomfort and restlessness.

Sleeping Position

Your sleeping position can significantly impact shoulder pain at night. Lying on the affected shoulder can aggravate existing shoulder conditions, leading to increased pain and discomfort. It is essential to find a sleeping position that minimizes pressure on the shoulder joint, such as sleeping on your back or using supportive pillows to cushion the shoulder.

Muscle Strain

Overuse or sudden injury can cause muscle strains in the shoulder, resulting in pain and limited mobility. The strain may occur in the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint or in the upper back and neck muscles that support the shoulder. Sleeping on the affected shoulder can worsen the pain, making it crucial to find ways to reduce strain and provide support during sleep.

Nerve Compression

Nerve compression in the shoulder can lead to radiating pain, numbness, and tingling sensations. Conditions such as thoracic outlet syndrome or pinched nerves can cause shoulder pain that worsens at night when lying down. The pressure on the compressed nerve can intensify while sleeping, making it difficult to find a position that alleviates the pain.

Seeking Medical Advice

Consult a Doctor

If you experience terrible shoulder pain at night, it is important to consult a doctor. A medical professional can evaluate your symptoms, perform a physical examination, and order further diagnostic tests if necessary. They will be able to provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment options based on the underlying cause of your shoulder pain.

Physical Therapist

A physical therapist specializes in the treatment and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal conditions. They can help develop a customized exercise program to improve shoulder strength, flexibility, and range of motion. Physical therapy can be beneficial for managing shoulder pain and preventing future injuries. A physical therapist can also provide guidance on ergonomic adjustments and lifestyle modifications to alleviate nighttime shoulder pain.

Orthopedic Specialist

If conservative treatments and physical therapy do not provide relief, an orthopedic specialist may be recommended. These specialists focus on the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions, including shoulder pain. They may explore surgical options or advanced interventions to address severe cases of shoulder pain that do not respond to other treatments.

How to Relieve Terrible Shoulder Pain at Night

Techniques for Immediate Relief

Rest and Avoidance of Overuse

One of the simplest yet effective techniques for immediate relief of shoulder pain is to rest the affected shoulder and avoid activities that exacerbate the pain. Overuse of the shoulder joint can worsen existing injuries or conditions, leading to increased pain and inflammation. Giving the shoulder time to heal and recover can provide much-needed relief.

Applying Ice or Heat

Applying ice or heat to the affected shoulder can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. Ice packs can be used in the acute phase of an injury or after activities that cause increased pain. Heat therapy, such as warm compresses or heating pads, can be beneficial for chronic shoulder pain or muscle stiffness. It is important to follow proper guidelines for icing and heating to avoid skin damage or burns.

Over-the-Counter Pain Medication

Over-the-counter pain medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen, can provide temporary relief from shoulder pain. These medications can help reduce inflammation and alleviate discomfort. It is important to follow the recommended dosage and consult a healthcare professional if the pain persists or worsens.

Gentle Stretching Exercises

Performing gentle stretching exercises can help alleviate shoulder pain and improve flexibility. These exercises should be performed under the guidance of a healthcare professional or physical therapist to ensure proper technique and avoid further injury. Stretching can help relieve muscle tightness and improve range of motion in the shoulder joint.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can help relax and loosen tight muscles, reducing shoulder pain and tension. A licensed massage therapist can target specific areas of the shoulder and upper back to alleviate pain and improve circulation. Regular massage sessions can be beneficial in managing chronic shoulder pain and promoting overall relaxation.


Acupuncture is an alternative therapy that involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body. It is believed to help restore the body’s balance and alleviate pain. Acupuncture may be an option for managing shoulder pain, but it is important to consult a licensed acupuncturist for proper evaluation and treatment.

Topical Pain Relief Creams

Topical pain relief creams or gels containing ingredients like menthol, camphor, or capsaicin can provide temporary relief from shoulder pain. These creams work by numbing the affected area or providing a warming or cooling sensation. It is advisable to follow the instructions on the product label and consult a healthcare professional if the pain persists or worsens.

Posture Improvement

Improving posture can help alleviate shoulder pain and prevent further strain on the shoulder joint. Maintaining good posture throughout the day, including while sitting, standing, and sleeping, can reduce undue stress on the muscles and ligaments around the shoulder. Using ergonomic chairs, supportive pillows, and regular posture checks can aid in maintaining proper alignment and reducing nighttime shoulder pain.

Physical Therapy and Exercises

Range of Motion Exercises

Range of motion exercises focus on improving the flexibility and mobility of the shoulder joint. These exercises help restore normal movement, reduce stiffness, and alleviate shoulder pain. A physical therapist can guide you through a range of motion exercise program tailored to your specific needs and condition.

Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening exercises aim to strengthen the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint, providing better support and stability. These exercises can help prevent or manage shoulder injuries and reduce pain. They usually involve using resistance bands, weights, or bodyweight exercises targeting the shoulder muscles.

Stretching Exercises

Stretching exercises help improve flexibility and alleviate muscle tightness in the shoulders and upper back. These exercises can be performed both actively and passively to target different muscle groups. Stretching can enhance range of motion, reduce pain, and prevent future shoulder issues.

Postural Correction Exercises

Poor posture can contribute to shoulder pain and dysfunction. Postural correction exercises focus on strengthening the postural muscles, such as the muscles in the upper back and neck. These exercises aim to restore proper alignment, reduce strain on the shoulders, and improve overall posture.

Rotator Cuff Exercises

Specific exercises targeting the rotator cuff muscles can help improve stability and prevent further shoulder injuries. These exercises usually involve external and internal rotation movements with resistance or using resistance bands. Strengthening the rotator cuff can enhance shoulder function and reduce pain.

How to Relieve Terrible Shoulder Pain at Night

Lifestyle Changes and Home Remedies

Ergonomic Adjustments

Making ergonomic adjustments in your workspace and daily activities can reduce shoulder pain and prevent further strain on the shoulder joint. This includes ensuring proper desk and chair height, using ergonomic keyboards and mice, and maintaining good posture while performing tasks.

Supportive Pillows

Using supportive pillows can help reduce shoulder pain and discomfort while sleeping. Pillows specifically designed for shoulder pain relief or orthopedic pillows that provide proper neck and shoulder support can alleviate pressure on the shoulder joint and promote better alignment during sleep.

Proper Sleep Positions

Choosing the right sleep position is crucial for managing shoulder pain at night. Sleeping on your back with a pillow under the knees or on your side with a pillow between the knees can help relieve shoulder pressure. It is best to avoid sleeping on the affected shoulder or stomach, as these positions can exacerbate shoulder pain.

Stress Management

Stress can contribute to muscle tension and exacerbate shoulder pain. Implementing stress management techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or engaging in activities that promote relaxation, can help reduce shoulder pain caused or intensified by stress.

Dietary Modifications

Certain foods and dietary habits can influence inflammation levels in the body. Including anti-inflammatory foods, such as fruits, vegetables, fatty fish, and nuts, in your diet may help reduce inflammation and alleviate shoulder pain. Avoiding processed foods, sugary drinks, and excessive alcohol consumption can also be beneficial.

Weight Management

Maintaining a healthy weight can help alleviate shoulder pain by reducing strain on the shoulder joint. Excess weight can put added pressure on the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the shoulder, exacerbating existing conditions or increasing the risk of injury.

Regular Exercise

Engaging in regular exercise can help strengthen the muscles around the shoulder joint and improve overall shoulder function. Low-impact exercises such as swimming, walking, or cycling can be beneficial for shoulder health. It is important to consult a healthcare professional or physical therapist for exercise recommendations that suit your specific condition and limitations.

Sleeping Aids

If shoulder pain at night affects your ability to sleep, using sleeping aids such as pillows, mattress toppers, or adjustable beds may provide relief. These aids can help distribute body weight more evenly and reduce pressure on the shoulder, allowing for a more comfortable sleep position.

Alternative Therapies

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions, including shoulder pain. Chiropractors use manual adjustment techniques to realign the spine and joints, potentially alleviating shoulder pain and promoting overall musculoskeletal health. It is important to consult a licensed chiropractor for proper evaluation and treatment.

Osteopathic Manipulation

Osteopathic manipulation, performed by osteopathic physicians, involves hands-on techniques to manipulate the muscles and joints in the body. These manipulations can help improve shoulder mobility and alleviate pain. Osteopathic physicians are medical doctors with specialized training in osteopathic medicine.

Herbal Remedies

Some herbal remedies, such as turmeric, ginger, or devil’s claw, have anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce shoulder inflammation and pain. It is important to consult a healthcare professional or herbalist for guidance on proper dosages and potential interactions with other medications.

Essential Oils

Essential oils, such as lavender, peppermint, or eucalyptus, can be used topically or through aromatherapy to provide temporary relief from shoulder pain. These oils may have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. It is crucial to dilute essential oils properly and use them according to safe guidelines.


Certain supplements, such as glucosamine, chondroitin, or omega-3 fatty acids, may help support joint health and reduce inflammation. However, it is important to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplements, as they may interact with other medications or have potential side effects.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a therapy that involves the use of low-voltage electrical currents to stimulate the nerves and reduce pain. TENS units can be used at home, delivering electrical pulses through electrodes placed on the skin. It is recommended to consult a healthcare professional for proper guidance on TENS therapy.

How to Relieve Terrible Shoulder Pain at Night

Pain Management Techniques

Hot and Cold Therapy

Alternate use of hot and cold therapy can help manage shoulder pain. Applying a cold compress or ice pack for 15-20 minutes can help reduce inflammation, while heat therapy through warm compresses or heating pads can provide temporary pain relief and enhance blood circulation. It is important to follow proper guidelines to avoid skin damage or burns.

Prescription Medications

In severe cases of shoulder pain, your doctor may prescribe stronger pain medications, such as opioids or muscle relaxants. These medications should be used under medical supervision and for a limited duration, as they may have potential side effects and risks.

Corticosteroid Injections

Corticosteroid injections can provide temporary relief from severe shoulder pain and inflammation. These injections deliver anti-inflammatory medications directly into the shoulder joint, reducing pain and swelling. It is important to consult a healthcare professional, as corticosteroid injections may have potential risks and should be used judiciously.

Nerve Block Injections

Nerve block injections involve the administration of anesthetics or anti-inflammatory medications to numb or block pain signals from specific nerves. These injections can provide targeted and temporary pain relief for severe shoulder pain. It is important to consult a healthcare professional specialized in pain management for proper evaluation and administration of nerve block injections.

Physical Modalities (Ultrasound, TENS, etc.)

Physical modalities, including ultrasound, TENS, or electric stimulation, can be used in conjunction with other treatments to manage shoulder pain. These therapies help reduce pain, improve circulation, and promote healing. It is essential to consult a healthcare professional or physical therapist for proper guidance and application of physical modalities.

Alternative Pain Relief Methods

Various alternative pain relief methods, such as mindfulness techniques, yoga, or meditation, can be used to manage shoulder pain. These methods focus on relaxation, stress reduction, and mind-body connection, potentially alleviating pain and promoting overall well-being.

Prevention Tips

Proper Ergonomics

Maintaining proper ergonomics at work and during daily activities can help prevent shoulder pain. This includes adjusting your workspace to ensure proper posture, using ergonomic tools and equipment, and taking regular breaks to stretch and move.

Regular Stretching and Strengthening Exercises

Engaging in regular stretching and strengthening exercises can help maintain shoulder flexibility and strength, reducing the risk of injuries or chronic shoulder pain. Including exercises that target the shoulder muscles and surrounding areas can help improve stability and prevent strain.

Good Posture Habits

Practicing good posture habits throughout the day can prevent shoulder pain and promote overall musculoskeletal health. This includes sitting and standing with proper alignment, avoiding slouching, and engaging the core muscles to support the upper body.

Adequate Rest and Recovery

Proper rest and recovery are essential for preventing shoulder pain. Giving the shoulder joint time to rest and recover after activities or injuries can reduce the risk of overuse or exacerbation of existing conditions. Getting adequate sleep and implementing relaxation techniques can also aid in overall recovery and pain prevention.

Avoiding Overuse and Repetitive Movements

Avoiding overuse and repetitive movements can help prevent shoulder pain and injuries. If you engage in activities that involve repetitive shoulder motions, it is important to take regular breaks, vary your movements, and use proper technique to reduce strain on the shoulder joint.

When to Seek Professional Help

Excessive Pain or Discomfort

If you experience excessive pain or discomfort in your shoulder, especially at night, it is important to seek professional help. Persistent or worsening pain may indicate an underlying condition or injury that requires medical attention.

Limited Range of Motion

If your shoulder has limited range of motion, making it difficult to perform daily activities or impeding your quality of life, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional. Limited range of motion may indicate an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

Pain Lasting More Than a Few Days

If your shoulder pain lasts more than a few days and does not improve with rest or home remedies, it is recommended to seek medical advice. Prolonged pain may be a sign of a more significant underlying condition that requires treatment.

Difficulty Sleeping

If your shoulder pain significantly affects your ability to sleep and impacts your overall quality of life, it is important to seek professional help. Sleep deprivation can lead to various health issues, and addressing the underlying cause of shoulder pain can help improve your sleep.

Persistent Symptoms Despite Home Remedies

If you have tried various home remedies and self-care techniques for shoulder pain without significant improvement, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional. Persistent symptoms may require further evaluation and targeted treatment.

Surgical Options for Severe Cases


Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to diagnose and treat various shoulder conditions. It involves inserting a small camera called an arthroscope through small incisions to visualize the inside of the shoulder joint. Arthroscopy can be used to repair damaged tissues, remove loose bodies, or address specific shoulder issues.

Shoulder Replacement

Shoulder replacement surgery, also known as shoulder arthroplasty, may be recommended for severe cases of shoulder pain and dysfunction. It involves replacing the damaged or arthritic shoulder joint with an artificial joint. Shoulder replacement can provide significant pain relief and restore functionality in the shoulder.

Rotator Cuff Repair

Rotator cuff repair surgery is performed to repair a torn or damaged rotator cuff. It involves suturing the torn tendon back to its original position or attaching it to other nearby tissues. Rotator cuff repair can improve stability, alleviate pain, and restore shoulder function.

Tendon Repair

In cases where there is a significant tendon tear or detachment, tendon repair surgery may be necessary. This procedure involves reattaching the torn or detached tendon to its original insertion point. Tendon repair restores normal function, relieves pain, and promotes healing.

Bursa Removal

In some cases of chronic bursitis that do not respond to conservative treatments, surgical removal of the problematic bursa may be considered. This procedure aims to reduce pain and inflammation by eliminating the source of irritation.


Osteotomy is a surgical procedure performed to reshape or realign the bones in the shoulder joint. It may be indicated in cases of shoulder instability, malalignment, or severe joint damage. Osteotomy can help restore proper joint function, alleviate pain, and prevent further deterioration.

In conclusion, terrible shoulder pain at night can have various causes, ranging from injuries and inflammations to underlying medical conditions. Seeking medical advice is crucial for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Techniques for immediate relief can include rest, applying ice or heat, over-the-counter pain medication, gentle stretching exercises, massage therapy, acupuncture, topical pain relief creams, and posture improvement. Physical therapy and exercises play a vital role in strengthening and improving shoulder function. Lifestyle changes and home remedies involve ergonomic adjustments, use of supportive pillows, proper sleep positions, stress management, dietary modifications, weight management, regular exercise, and sleeping aids. Alternative therapies like chiropractic care, osteopathic manipulation, herbal remedies, essential oils, supplements, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) can provide additional relief. Pain management techniques may include hot and cold therapy, prescription medications, corticosteroid injections, nerve block injections, and physical modalities. Prevention tips include proper ergonomics, regular stretching and strengthening exercises, good posture habits, adequate rest and recovery, and avoiding overuse and repetitive movements. It is important to seek professional help when experiencing excessive pain or discomfort, limited range of motion, pain lasting more than a few days, difficulty sleeping, or persistent symptoms despite home remedies. In severe cases, surgical options such as arthroscopy, shoulder replacement, rotator cuff repair, tendon repair, bursa removal, or osteotomy may be considered.

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