23 May 2024
Looking for effective solutions to manage shoulder pain at night? Check out this informative article for practical tips and techniques to relieve pain and promote better sleep. Wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the day ahead!

When it comes to managing shoulder pain at night, finding effective solutions is crucial for a good night’s sleep. Whether you’ve experienced a recent injury or have chronic shoulder pain, it’s important to explore strategies that provide relief during the nighttime. In this article, we will discuss some practical tips and techniques that can help alleviate shoulder pain and promote better sleep, allowing you to wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the day ahead.

Managing Shoulder Pain at Night

Table of Contents

Causes of Shoulder Pain at Night

Rotator cuff injuries

One common cause of shoulder pain at night is a rotator cuff injury. The rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles that surround the shoulder joint and allow for its smooth movement. When these tendons or muscles become injured or torn, it can lead to pain and discomfort, especially when lying down at night. Rotator cuff injuries can happen due to repetitive overhead activities, trauma, or the normal wear and tear that comes with aging.

Frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is another potential cause of shoulder pain at night. It occurs when the tissues around the shoulder joint become inflamed and stiff, leading to pain and restricted movement. People with frozen shoulder often experience the most severe pain during the night, as the lack of movement exacerbates the stiffness and discomfort.


Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursae, small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints. When the bursae in the shoulder become inflamed, it can cause pain, swelling, and tenderness. This pain may be especially noticeable at night when lying on the affected shoulder. Bursitis can be caused by repetitive motions or direct trauma to the shoulder.


Arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, can also contribute to shoulder pain at night. Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage within the joints breaks down, leading to pain and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints. Both types of arthritis can cause nighttime shoulder pain due to increased inflammation and reduced mobility.


Tendonitis is the inflammation or irritation of the tendons, which are the thick cords that connect muscles to bones. In the shoulder, tendonitis can occur in the rotator cuff tendons or the biceps tendon. This condition is often a result of repetitive overhead activities or trauma. The pain tends to worsen at night when lying down, as the tendons may become compressed or irritated.

Shoulder impingement

Shoulder impingement refers to the compression or pinching of the rotator cuff tendons and the bursa within the shoulder joint. This can occur when the space between the rotator cuff and the acromion, a bone of the shoulder blade, narrows. The compression and friction can lead to pain and tenderness, particularly at night when the shoulder is resting and the tendons are more likely to become irritated.

Dislocated shoulder

A dislocated shoulder occurs when the upper arm bone pops out of the shoulder socket. This can be a painful and traumatic experience, and the resulting shoulder instability and injury to the surrounding structures can lead to nighttime pain. People with a history of shoulder dislocations are more susceptible to recurrent episodes and may experience increased discomfort while lying down.

Shoulder instability

Shoulder instability is a condition characterized by the excessive movement of the shoulder joint, making it more prone to dislocation. This instability can be caused by a traumatic injury or a congenital condition. The constant movement and shifting of the shoulder joint can result in nighttime pain and discomfort.

Labral tear

A labral tear refers to the damage or tear to the cartilage surrounding the shoulder socket. This can occur due to trauma or repetitive overhead activities. The pain associated with a labral tear can be particularly pronounced at night, as the shoulder is in a resting position and the tear may become irritated or compressed.

Referred pain

Sometimes, shoulder pain at night may not originate from the shoulder itself. Referred pain occurs when pain is felt in an area that is different from the source of the pain. For example, pain from the neck or upper back can radiate to the shoulder and cause nighttime discomfort. Identifying the true source of the pain is important for effective treatment.

Diagnosing Shoulder Pain at Night

Medical history and physical examination

When seeking a diagnosis for shoulder pain at night, the first step typically involves a medical history and physical examination. A healthcare professional will ask questions about the nature and duration of the pain, any previous injuries or medical conditions, and any activities that aggravate or alleviate the discomfort. They will also assess the range of motion, strength, and stability of the shoulder through various tests and maneuvers.

Imaging tests

To get a clearer view of the structures within the shoulder, imaging tests such as X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans may be ordered. These can help identify any damage, inflammation, or abnormalities in the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Imaging tests can provide valuable insights into the underlying cause of the shoulder pain and aid in determining the most appropriate treatment plan.

Blood tests

Blood tests are not typically used to diagnose shoulder pain directly, but they may be utilized to rule out certain underlying medical conditions that could be contributing to the pain. For example, blood tests can help identify markers of inflammation or detect autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Diagnostic injections

In some cases, a diagnostic injection may be recommended to help identify the source of shoulder pain. This involves injecting a local anesthetic or corticosteroid medication into the shoulder joint or specific structures, such as the bursa or a tendon. If the injection provides temporary pain relief, it can suggest that the injected structure is the source of the pain and guide further treatment decisions.

Managing Shoulder Pain at Night

Treatment Options for Shoulder Pain at Night

Rest and immobilization

The first line of treatment for many shoulder injuries and conditions involves rest and immobilization. Limiting activities that worsen the pain, avoiding overhead movements, and utilizing supportive devices such as slings can help reduce stress on the shoulder joint and allow for healing. It is important to follow the guidance of healthcare professionals in determining the duration and extent of rest and immobilization required.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the treatment of shoulder pain at night. A trained therapist can guide individuals through specific exercises, stretches, and strengthening routines tailored to their condition. Physical therapy aims to improve the range of motion, strengthen the muscles surrounding the shoulder, and enhance overall stability. It can also address any underlying biomechanical issues contributing to the pain.


Various medications may be prescribed or recommended to manage shoulder pain. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. In some cases, stronger pain medications or muscle relaxants may be prescribed. Corticosteroid injections may also be used to provide temporary relief in cases of inflammation or severe pain.

Hot or cold therapy

Applying heat or cold to the affected shoulder can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Heat therapy, such as using a heating pad or taking a warm shower, can promote relaxation and increase blood flow to the area. Cold therapy, such as using an ice pack or cold compress, can help numb the area and reduce swelling. Alternating between heat and cold can provide additional benefits in soothing shoulder pain.

Supportive devices

Supportive devices such as slings, braces, or splints may be recommended to provide stability and reduce strain on the shoulder joint. These devices can be particularly helpful during periods of rest or during activities that exacerbate the pain. They can help limit movement, protect the injured area, and promote proper alignment.


In addition to diagnostic injections, therapeutic injections may be used to deliver medication directly to the affected area. Corticosteroid injections can help reduce inflammation and provide temporary relief. Other types of injections, such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) or hyaluronic acid injections, may be recommended to promote healing and improve joint function.

Alternative therapies

Various alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, or massage therapy, may offer relief for shoulder pain at night. These therapies focus on targeting specific points or areas associated with pain and tension, promoting relaxation, and improving circulation. While the effectiveness of alternative therapies may vary, many individuals find them beneficial as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

Surgical intervention

In cases where conservative treatments do not provide sufficient relief, surgical intervention may be considered. The type of surgery will depend on the underlying cause of the shoulder pain. Procedures such as rotator cuff repair, shoulder stabilization, or joint replacement may be necessary to address severe injuries, degenerative conditions, or structural abnormalities. Surgery should be discussed thoroughly with a healthcare professional to understand the potential risks and benefits.

Tips for Managing Shoulder Pain at Night

Sleeping position

Adjusting your sleeping position can help alleviate shoulder pain at night. A common recommendation is to sleep on your unaffected side to reduce pressure on the painful shoulder. Placing a pillow or cushion between your arms can also provide support and prevent excessive strain on the shoulder joint.

Pillow support

Choosing the right pillow can make a significant difference in managing shoulder pain at night. Opt for a pillow that supports the natural curve of your neck and keeps your head and spine aligned. Memory foam or contour pillows can help distribute weight evenly and reduce pressure on the shoulder.

Changing bedding

The type of bedding you use can affect your shoulder pain at night. Consider selecting a mattress that provides adequate support, especially for your shoulders and neck. Additionally, using soft, breathable, and hypoallergenic sheets and pillowcases can promote better sleep and minimize discomfort.

Heat or ice packs

Applying a heat or ice pack to your shoulder before bed can help relieve pain and calm inflammation. Experiment with both heat and cold therapy to find which provides the most relief for your specific condition. Use caution with temperature extremes and always wrap the pack in a cloth to avoid direct contact with the skin.

Exercise and stretching

Engaging in regular exercise and stretching routines can improve the strength and flexibility of the shoulder muscles, reducing pain and enhancing mobility. Consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist to develop an exercise program tailored to your needs and capabilities.

Stress management

Stress can contribute to muscle tension and exacerbate shoulder pain. Incorporating stress management techniques into your bedtime routine, such as deep breathing, meditation, or relaxation exercises, can help promote relaxation and alleviate pain.

Medication schedule

If you are taking medications for your shoulder pain, it can be helpful to establish a regular schedule. Adhering to prescribed dosages and timing can ensure consistent pain relief throughout the night, reducing discomfort and promoting a more restful sleep.

Support from loved ones

Dealing with shoulder pain at night can be challenging, both physically and emotionally. Seeking support from loved ones, whether through understanding and encouragement or practical assistance, can make a significant difference in managing the pain and maintaining a positive outlook.

Posture correction

Poor posture can contribute to shoulder pain and discomfort, not only during the day but also at night. Practicing good posture throughout the day and making conscious efforts to correct any slouching or rounded shoulders can alleviate strain on the shoulder joint and improve overall alignment.

Avoiding repetitive movements

Repetitive movements and activities that strain the shoulder can exacerbate nighttime pain. Try to identify and avoid any specific movements or positions that aggravate your shoulder. Modify your activities or seek alternative methods to accomplish tasks without putting excessive stress on the affected shoulder.

Managing Shoulder Pain at Night

When to Seek Medical Help

Severe and persistent pain

If your shoulder pain at night is severe and persists despite conservative measures, it is essential to seek medical help. Severe pain can be an indication of a more serious underlying condition or may require additional intervention beyond self-care treatments.

Limited range of motion

If your shoulder pain limits your ability to move or perform daily activities, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional. Restricted range of motion can signify significant damage or impairment that may require further evaluation and intervention.

Signs of infection

If you notice signs of infection around your shoulder, such as redness, warmth, swelling, or drainage, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention. Infection can lead to serious complications if left untreated and may require prompt medical intervention.

Numbness or tingling

The presence of numbness or tingling in the shoulder, arm, or hand can indicate nerve involvement or compression. Seeking medical help can help identify the cause of these symptoms and guide appropriate treatment strategies.

Weakness, muscle wasting, or atrophy

If you experience weakness, muscle wasting, or atrophy in the shoulder area, it may indicate significant damage or an underlying neurological condition. These symptoms should not be ignored and should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.

Unexplained weight loss

Unexplained weight loss, combined with shoulder pain at night, could be a potential indicator of a more systemic illness or malignancy. If you are experiencing unexplained weight loss, it is vital to consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and diagnosis.

Loss of bladder or bowel control

The loss of bladder or bowel control, along with shoulder pain, can indicate a severe neurological condition that may require urgent medical attention. It is crucial to seek immediate medical help if you experience these symptoms.

Preventing Shoulder Pain at Night

Maintaining good posture

Maintaining good posture throughout the day can help prevent shoulder pain at night. Avoid slouching or rounding the shoulders forward, and practice sitting and standing tall with the shoulders relaxed and aligned with the ears.

Strengthening shoulder muscles

Regularly performing exercises that target the muscles surrounding the shoulder can help improve strength and stability, reducing the risk of pain and injury. Consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist to develop a safe and effective exercise routine.

Proper lifting techniques

Using proper lifting techniques can help prevent strain and injury to the shoulder. When lifting heavy objects, engage the core muscles, keep the back straight, and use the legs to provide support and power.

Avoiding overhead activities

Overhead activities, such as reaching or lifting objects above the head, can put increased stress on the shoulder joint. Whenever possible, avoid or minimize these repetitive movements to reduce the risk of shoulder pain and injury.

Taking regular breaks

If you have a job or hobby that requires repetitive shoulder movements, be mindful of taking regular breaks. By allowing your shoulder to rest and recover periodically, you can help prevent overuse injuries and reduce the likelihood of developing shoulder pain at night.

Using ergonomic equipment

Using ergonomic equipment, such as ergonomic chairs, keyboards, or tools, can promote proper alignment and reduce strain on the shoulder. Adjusting your work environment to ensure ergonomic support can make a significant difference in preventing shoulder pain.

Maintaining a healthy weight

Excess weight places additional stress on the joints, including the shoulders. By maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise and a balanced diet, you can reduce the load on the shoulders and decrease the risk of developing nighttime shoulder pain.

Adapting Daily Activities for Shoulder Pain Relief

Adjusting workstations and chairs

Ensure that your workstation and chair are set up ergonomically to provide optimal support for your shoulders. Adjust the height and position of your chair, desk, and computer monitor to maintain good posture and avoid unnecessary strain on the shoulders.

Modifying exercise routines

If certain exercises or activities exacerbate your shoulder pain at night, consider modifying your routine. Avoid or modify movements that put excessive stress on the shoulder joint, and focus on exercises that promote strength and stability without causing discomfort.

Using assistive devices

Assistive devices, such as reaching tools or long-handled brushes, can help reduce the strain on the shoulder during daily activities. These devices allow you to perform tasks without requiring excessive shoulder movement or reaching.

Avoiding certain movements

Identify specific movements or positions that worsen your shoulder pain at night, and avoid or modify them as much as possible. This may involve adapting how you perform certain tasks, using alternative techniques, or seeking assistance from others when needed.

Taking breaks during activities

When engaging in repetitive activities or tasks that strain the shoulder, be sure to take regular breaks. Giving your shoulder a chance to rest and recover can help prevent overuse injuries and alleviate nighttime pain.

Using proper body mechanics

Practicing proper body mechanics is essential to minimize the strain on the shoulder during daily activities. Lift objects with the legs, not the shoulders, and avoid twisting or jerking movements. Be mindful of maintaining good posture and using the appropriate muscles for each activity.

Coping with Shoulder Pain at Night

Relaxation techniques

Incorporating relaxation techniques into your daily routine can help manage shoulder pain at night. Deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation can promote relaxation, reduce muscle tension, and alleviate pain.

Heat and cold therapy

Applying heat or cold to the affected shoulder can provide temporary relief from nighttime pain. Experiment with both heat and cold therapy to find the method that works best for you. Always follow safety guidelines and avoid extreme temperatures to prevent injury.

Over-the-counter pain relievers

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or NSAIDs, can be effective in managing shoulder pain at night. Follow the recommended dosage instructions and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any underlying medical conditions or are taking other medications.

Support groups

Connecting with others who are experiencing similar challenges can provide valuable support and understanding. Joining a support group, either in person or online, can offer a sense of community and provide a platform for sharing experiences, tips, and coping strategies.

Regular exercise

Engaging in regular exercise, within your abilities and limitations, can help manage shoulder pain and improve overall well-being. Low-impact exercises such as swimming, walking, or tai chi can be beneficial for maintaining strength, flexibility, and joint health.

Massage therapy

Massage therapy can help alleviate muscle tension, improve circulation, and promote relaxation. Targeted massage techniques can target specific areas of shoulder pain, providing relief and enhancing sleep quality. Consult with a licensed massage therapist to ensure safe and effective treatment.

Taking breaks during daily activities

Listen to your body and take breaks as needed during daily activities. Pausing and resting your shoulder periodically can help prevent overuse and reduce the likelihood of experiencing nighttime pain.

Maintaining a positive attitude

Maintaining a positive attitude can be a powerful tool in coping with shoulder pain at night. Practice gratitude, focus on activities that bring joy and fulfillment, and seek out positive experiences and connections. A positive mindset can help manage pain and improve overall emotional well-being.

Journaling or expressing emotions

Keeping a journal or expressing emotions through creative outlets can be beneficial for managing shoulder pain. Writing down thoughts, feelings, and experiences related to the pain can help process emotions and provide a sense of empowerment and control.

Home Remedies for Shoulder Pain at Night

Rest and relaxation

Giving your shoulder adequate rest and relaxation is essential for healing and pain management. Avoid activities that exacerbate the pain and make time for relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation.

Applying heat or cold

Applying a heat pack or cold compress to your shoulder can provide temporary relief from nighttime pain. Experiment with both heat and cold therapy to determine which method works best for you. Always protect your skin by wrapping the pack in a cloth before applying it.

Topical creams or ointments

Over-the-counter topical creams or ointments containing ingredients such as menthol, lidocaine, or capsaicin can help soothe shoulder pain. Follow the instructions on the product label and use caution to avoid skin irritation or allergic reactions.

Epsom salt baths

Soaking in a warm bath with added Epsom salts can help relax the muscles, reduce inflammation, and alleviate shoulder pain. Epsom salts contain magnesium, which can be absorbed through the skin and promote relaxation.

Gentle self-massage

Gentle self-massage techniques can help relieve muscle tension and promote relaxation. Using your fingertips or a massage tool, apply gentle pressure to the affected shoulder area, following circular or back-and-forth motions. Be mindful of your comfort level and avoid any painful or uncomfortable movements.

Stretching exercises

Performing gentle stretching exercises for the shoulder can help improve flexibility and relieve pain. Consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist to learn appropriate stretching techniques for your specific condition.

Herbal remedies or supplements

Some individuals find relief from shoulder pain by using herbal remedies or supplements. Common options include turmeric, ginger, devil’s claw, or omega-3 fatty acids. Make sure to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any herbal remedies or supplements to ensure they are safe and appropriate for you.

Adequate hydration

Drinking an adequate amount of water each day is crucial for overall health and can indirectly help manage shoulder pain. Staying hydrated can help promote circulation, maintain joint health, and support the body’s natural healing processes.

Maintaining a healthy diet

Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can provide the necessary nutrients for joint health and overall well-being. Certain foods, such as those rich in omega-3 fatty acids or antioxidants, may have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce shoulder pain.


Shoulder pain at night can significantly impact a person’s quality of life, sleep, and overall well-being. Understanding the various causes of shoulder pain and having knowledge of diagnosis, treatment, and management options is essential for effective pain relief and prevention. By employing a comprehensive approach that includes medical interventions, self-care strategies, and lifestyle modifications, individuals can successfully manage shoulder pain at night and improve their overall shoulder health. Remember to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

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