20 May 2024
Tips to Relieve Shoulder Pain at Night: Discover practical adjustments to your sleep routine and targeted exercises for a peaceful night's sleep. Say goodbye to shoulder pain and hello to restful nights!

If you’re tired of tossing and turning at night due to the persistent ache in your shoulders, then it’s time to discover some practical tips to alleviate that discomfort. Whether it’s a result of an injury or simply the stress of daily life, the pain radiating from both shoulders can quickly turn a peaceful night’s sleep into a frustrating ordeal. But fear not! With a few simple adjustments to your sleep routine and some targeted exercises, you can bid farewell to those sleepless nights and wake up feeling refreshed and pain-free. Say goodbye to shoulder pain and hello to restful nights of slumber!

Tips to Relieve Shoulder Pain at Night

Table of Contents

Causes of Shoulder Pain at Night

Shoulder pain can be quite bothersome, especially when it disrupts your sleep at night. Understanding the underlying causes of shoulder pain is essential in finding relief. Here are some common causes of shoulder pain at night:

1. Rotator cuff injuries

Rotator cuff injuries are one of the leading causes of shoulder pain, particularly at night. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, providing stability and enabling movement. Overuse, repetitive motions, or sudden trauma can lead to tears or inflammation in the rotator cuff, resulting in pain, weakness, and difficulty in sleeping comfortably.

2. Shoulder impingement syndrome

Shoulder impingement syndrome occurs when the tendons in the shoulder become trapped or compressed between the bones of the upper arm and the shoulder blade. This condition can cause pain, reduced range of motion, and discomfort while sleeping. Certain activities that involve lifting or reaching overhead, such as painting or throwing, can contribute to shoulder impingement syndrome.

3. Arthritis

Arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, can also lead to shoulder pain at night. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that occurs due to the wear and tear of cartilage, causing pain, stiffness, and inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disease that leads to chronic inflammation in the joints, including the shoulders.

4. Tendonitis

Tendonitis, also known as tendinitis, refers to the inflammation or irritation of a tendon. It commonly affects the tendons surrounding the shoulder joint, leading to pain and discomfort, especially when lying down at night. Overuse, repetitive movements, or sudden injuries can contribute to the development of tendonitis in the shoulder.

5. Frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder, medically known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by stiffness, pain, and limited range of motion in the shoulder joint. It typically develops gradually and can interfere with a good night’s sleep. Frozen shoulder can occur due to prolonged immobility, certain medical conditions, or as a result of previous shoulder injuries.

Understanding the specific cause of your shoulder pain is crucial in determining the most effective strategies for pain relief. If you are uncertain about the cause of your shoulder pain, it is recommended to seek medical advice for a proper diagnosis.

Sleeping Positions for Shoulder Pain Relief

The way you sleep can significantly impact your shoulder pain. By adopting the right sleeping positions, you can relieve pressure on the affected shoulder and promote better sleep. Here are some sleeping positions to consider for shoulder pain relief:

1. Back sleeping

Sleeping on your back can help distribute your body weight evenly, reducing stress on the shoulders. Place a pillow beneath your knees to maintain a neutral alignment of the spine. Consider using a flatter pillow or a cervical pillow to support your head and neck without straining your shoulders.

2. Side sleeping with a pillow

If you prefer sleeping on your side, tuck a pillow between your knees to align your spine properly. Place another pillow under your head and neck, ensuring that it adequately supports your shoulder without causing strain. This position can help alleviate pressure on the affected shoulder.

3. Side sleeping with a body pillow

For added support and comfort while side sleeping, consider using a body pillow. Place the body pillow lengthwise along your torso, allowing you to hug it with your top arm. This position helps keep your shoulders from rolling forward, reducing strain and minimizing shoulder pain.

4. Avoiding sleeping on the affected shoulder

If one shoulder is experiencing pain, it is crucial to avoid sleeping on that side. Opting for positions that do not put pressure on the affected shoulder can prevent exacerbation of the pain. Be mindful of your sleeping habits and try to avoid unconsciously rolling onto the painful shoulder during the night.

5. Elevating the upper body with pillows

Elevating your upper body slightly with the help of pillows can alleviate shoulder pain and provide relief. Prop yourself up with a few pillows, ensuring that your head, neck, and shoulders are properly supported. This position can reduce inflammation, improve blood circulation, and promote better sleep quality.

Experiment with different sleeping positions and variations to find the one that works best for you. The goal is to find a position that minimizes pressure on the shoulder joint and allows for a comfortable and pain-free night’s sleep.

Tips to Relieve Shoulder Pain at Night

Pain Management Techniques

In addition to adjusting your sleeping positions, there are various pain management techniques that can provide relief from shoulder pain at night. These techniques can help alleviate discomfort, reduce inflammation, and promote healing. Here are some pain management techniques to consider:

1. Applying heat or cold therapy

Applying heat or cold therapy to the affected shoulder can provide temporary pain relief. Heat therapy, such as a warm shower or a heating pad, helps relax muscles and increase blood flow to the area, while cold therapy, such as an ice pack or a cold compress, can reduce inflammation and numb the area.

2. Over-the-counter pain relievers

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can help alleviate shoulder pain and reduce inflammation. However, it is essential to follow the recommended dosage and consult a healthcare professional if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking other medications.

3. Topical analgesics

Topical analgesics, such as creams, gels, or patches, can be applied directly to the skin to provide localized pain relief. These products often contain ingredients like menthol or capsaicin, which temporarily numb the area, providing a soothing sensation and reducing discomfort.

4. Stretching exercises

Performing gentle stretching exercises can help improve flexibility, reduce muscle tension, and alleviate shoulder pain. Some simple shoulder stretches, such as shoulder rolls, cross-body shoulder stretches, and wall chest stretches, can be done before bed to relax the muscles and promote relaxation.

5. Physical therapy

If your shoulder pain persists or is severe, seeking the guidance of a physical therapist can be beneficial. Physical therapy can help address the underlying causes of your shoulder pain and provide targeted exercises and treatments to strengthen the shoulder muscles, improve range of motion, and reduce pain.

It is important to note that pain management techniques are intended to provide temporary relief and should not replace seeking medical advice for a proper diagnosis and long-term treatment plan.

Shoulder Stretches before Bed

Performing gentle shoulder stretches before bed can help relax the muscles, increase flexibility, and reduce tension, promoting a restful night’s sleep. Here are some effective shoulder stretches to incorporate into your nighttime routine:

1. Shoulder rolls

Shoulder rolls are a simple stretch that can be done standing or seated. Begin by gently rolling your shoulders forward in a circular motion for several repetitions. Then, reverse the direction and roll your shoulders backward. This stretch helps release tension in the shoulder area and improves mobility.

2. Cross-body shoulder stretch

To perform a cross-body shoulder stretch, start by standing or sitting up straight. Extend one arm across your chest, gently pulling it closer to your body with the opposite hand. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds, feeling a gentle stretch in the back of your shoulder. Repeat on the other side.

3. Wall chest stretch

Stand facing a wall and place your forearm against it, with your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle. Slowly lean forward, allowing your chest to stretch while keeping your forearm against the wall. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds, feeling a gentle stretch in your chest and shoulders. Repeat on the other side.

4. Pendulum exercise

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and slightly bend forward from your waist. Let your affected arm hang freely, and gently swing it back and forth, side to side, and in small circles. This pendulum-like motion helps loosen the shoulder joint and increases blood flow to the area.

5. Arm slide

Stand with your back against a wall and your feet a few inches away from the wall. With your arms at a 90-degree angle and resting against the wall, slowly slide your arms upward, maintaining contact with the wall. This stretch helps improve shoulder mobility and flexibility.

Perform these stretches slowly and in a controlled manner, avoiding any sharp or intense pain. If you experience severe pain or discomfort while doing these stretches, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist for guidance.

Tips to Relieve Shoulder Pain at Night

Exercises to Strengthen Shoulders

Incorporating shoulder-strengthening exercises into your routine can help improve the stability and function of the shoulder joint, reducing the likelihood of experiencing pain at night. Here are some exercises to strengthen your shoulders:

1. Rows

Rows are excellent exercises for strengthening the muscles of the upper back and shoulders. Using resistance bands or weights, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, slightly bend your knees, and hinge forward at the hips. Keeping your back straight, pull the bands or weights toward your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Repeat for several repetitions.

2. Shoulder press

Shoulder presses target the deltoid muscles and help build strength in the shoulders. Stand or sit up straight with weights in hand, positioned at shoulder height. Press the weights upward, fully extending your arms without locking your elbows. Slowly lower the weights back down to shoulder level and repeat for several repetitions.

3. External rotations

External rotations focus on the rotator cuff muscles, which are crucial for shoulder stability. Stand with your arms at your sides, holding a resistance band or lightweight dumbbell in one hand. Keeping your upper arm against your side and your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle, rotate your forearm away from your body, maintaining control. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

4. Scapular squeezes

Scapular squeezes help improve posture and strengthen the muscles around the shoulder blades. Sit or stand up straight, and squeeze your shoulder blades together as if trying to hold a pencil between them. Hold the squeeze for a few seconds, then release. Repeat for several repetitions, focusing on maintaining good posture throughout.

5. Yoga poses for shoulder strength

Yoga poses that target the shoulders, such as downward-facing dog, dolphin pose, or extended triangle pose, can help strengthen the muscles and increase flexibility. Incorporating these poses into your regular yoga practice or as part of a stretching routine before bed can be beneficial in preventing shoulder pain at night.

It is important to start with light weights or resistance and gradually increase as your strength improves. If you experience any pain or discomfort during these exercises, it is advisable to stop and consult with a healthcare professional or a qualified fitness trainer.

Adjusting your Sleeping Environment

Creating a sleep-friendly environment is essential for ensuring a restful night’s sleep and minimizing shoulder pain. Here are some factors to consider when adjusting your sleeping environment:

1. Choosing a supportive mattress

Selecting a supportive mattress is crucial for maintaining proper spinal alignment and relieving pressure on the shoulders. Look for mattresses that offer adequate support for your body weight and provide the right balance of comfort and firmness. Memory foam or latex mattresses are often recommended for individuals with shoulder pain.

2. Using a supportive pillow

Using a supportive pillow that aligns your head, neck, and spine correctly can help alleviate shoulder pain. Look for pillows specifically designed for side or back sleepers, as well as those with shoulder cutouts or contouring to accommodate the shoulders. Opt for pillows with adjustable loft or thickness to cater to your personal comfort needs.

3. Maintaining a comfortable room temperature

Keeping your bedroom at a comfortable temperature can promote better sleep quality and reduce the likelihood of waking up due to discomfort. The ideal temperature can vary from person to person, but generally, a cool and slightly lower temperature, between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit (15-19 degrees Celsius), is recommended for optimal sleep.

4. Reducing noise and distractions

Minimizing noise and distractions in your sleep environment can help foster a peaceful and undisturbed night’s sleep. Consider using white noise machines, earplugs, or sleep masks to block out any disruptive sounds or light that may interfere with your sleep. Creating a calm and quiet space can contribute to a more restorative sleep experience.

5. Considering a sleep aid device

If your shoulder pain at night is severe or persistent, you may consider using sleep aid devices, such as adjustable beds or orthopedic supports. Adjustable beds allow you to elevate your upper body and find a position that alleviates shoulder discomfort. Orthopedic supports, such as mattress toppers or pillows, can provide additional cushioning and pressure relief.

Experiment with different adjustments to your sleeping environment to find what works best for you. The goal is to create a comfortable and supportive sleep space that promotes optimal rest and minimizes shoulder pain.

Using Supportive Devices

Incorporating supportive devices into your daily routine can provide additional assistance in managing shoulder pain, promoting healing, and ensuring a good night’s sleep. Here are some supportive devices to consider:

1. Shoulder brace or sling

If you have recently experienced a shoulder injury or are recovering from surgery, a shoulder brace or sling can help immobilize and support the shoulder joint. These devices provide stability, limit excessive movement, and aid in the healing process. Follow your healthcare professional’s advice on how and when to use these devices.

2. Orthopedic pillows

Orthopedic pillows designed specifically for individuals with shoulder pain can provide targeted support and alleviate pressure points. These pillows are contoured to accommodate the neck, head, and shoulders, ensuring proper alignment and reducing strain on the shoulder joint. Explore different options and choose a pillow that suits your preferences and sleeping position.

3. Mattress toppers for pressure relief

Mattress toppers, such as memory foam or latex toppers, can add an extra layer of cushioning and pressure relief to your mattress. These toppers conform to your body shape, reducing pressure on the shoulders and promoting proper spinal alignment. Consider choosing a topper with a thickness and firmness level that suits your needs.

4. Shoulder immobilizer

A shoulder immobilizer is a supportive device that restricts movement of the shoulder joint, providing stability and reducing pain. This device is often used during the initial stages of shoulder injury or post-surgery recovery. Follow your healthcare professional’s instructions on usage and consult them for proper fitting.

5. Electrotherapy devices for pain management

Electrotherapy devices, such as TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) units, can help manage shoulder pain by delivering low-level electrical impulses to the affected area. These devices can reduce pain signals and promote the release of endorphins, providing temporary pain relief. Consult a healthcare professional for guidance on proper usage and safety precautions.

It is important to remember that supportive devices are intended to complement other treatment methods and should be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional. They can provide temporary relief and aid in the healing process, but they should not replace a comprehensive treatment plan or professional medical advice.

Avoiding Triggers

Identifying and avoiding triggers that exacerbate shoulder pain can play a significant role in managing night-time discomfort. By making simple lifestyle modifications, you can minimize unnecessary strain on your shoulders. Here are common triggers to be mindful of:

1. Overuse of the shoulder during the day

Engaging in repetitive activities or overusing the shoulder during the day can lead to increased pain and discomfort at night. It is essential to be mindful of your daily activities and make necessary modifications to avoid unnecessary strain or repetitive motions. Take regular breaks, find alternative approaches, or ask for assistance when needed.

2. Poor posture

Maintaining good posture throughout the day is crucial for shoulder health. Slouching or hunching forward places excessive strain on the shoulder joint and can contribute to pain and discomfort. Be mindful of your posture while sitting, standing, or working, and make a conscious effort to sit up straight, aligning your shoulders with your ears.

3. Carrying heavy bags

Carrying heavy bags, purses, or backpacks on one shoulder can cause imbalance, strain, and shoulder pain. Distribute the weight evenly across both shoulders or consider switching to a backpack-style bag that evenly distributes the load. Lightening the load or using a roller bag can also help alleviate strain on the shoulders.

4. Repetitive motions

Engaging in repetitive motions, such as overhead movements or repetitive lifting, can contribute to shoulder pain. If possible, modify your movements or find ways to minimize repetitive actions. Use proper lifting techniques, take breaks, and diversify your activities to reduce strain on the shoulders.

5. Sleeping on an old or uncomfortable mattress

An old, sagging, or uncomfortable mattress can exacerbate shoulder pain and disrupt sleep. Your mattress should provide adequate support and cushioning to promote proper spinal alignment. If your mattress is over ten years old or no longer provides the necessary comfort, consider investing in a new mattress to improve sleep quality and shoulder pain.

By being mindful of these triggers and making necessary adjustments, you can minimize unnecessary strain on your shoulders and promote a pain-free night’s sleep.

Seeking Medical Advice

If your shoulder pain persists or significantly interferes with your ability to sleep, it is advisable to seek medical advice. A healthcare professional or orthopedic specialist can provide a proper diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment options. Here are steps to take when seeking medical advice:

1. Consulting a healthcare professional

Start by scheduling an appointment with your primary care physician or a healthcare professional specializing in musculoskeletal health. They can evaluate your symptoms, conduct a physical examination, and provide initial guidance on managing shoulder pain.

2. Getting a proper diagnosis

To determine the underlying cause of your shoulder pain, your healthcare professional may recommend additional diagnostic tests, such as X-rays, MRI scans, or ultrasound imaging. These tests can provide a detailed view of your shoulder joint, helping identify any structural abnormalities or injuries.

3. Exploring treatment options

Once a diagnosis is made, your healthcare professional can discuss various treatment options tailored to your specific condition. Treatment options may include conservative approaches such as physical therapy, medication, or injections, or in some cases, surgery may be recommended.

4. Considering medication or injections

Depending on the severity of your shoulder pain, your healthcare professional may prescribe medication to manage pain and reduce inflammation. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroid injections are commonly used to alleviate symptoms and promote healing. Follow your healthcare professional’s instructions and consult them for any potential side effects or contraindications.

5. Scheduling surgery if necessary

In cases where conservative treatments prove ineffective or the condition is severe, surgery may be recommended. Surgical procedures for shoulder pain can include repairing torn tendons or ligaments, removing damaged tissue, or replacing the shoulder joint. Your healthcare professional will discuss the surgical options, risks, and expected outcomes with you.

Remember to be open and transparent with your healthcare professional about your symptoms, concerns, and any previous treatments or interventions you have tried. They are there to guide you and provide appropriate care to help alleviate your shoulder pain and improve your quality of life.

Preventing Shoulder Pain at Night

Prevention is always better than seeking a cure. By incorporating preventive measures into your daily routine, you can minimize the risk of experiencing shoulder pain at night. Here are some strategies to consider:

1. Maintaining proper posture

Maintaining good posture throughout the day is vital for shoulder health. Practice proper posture while sitting, standing, and engaging in daily activities. This includes keeping your shoulders relaxed, your head aligned with your spine, and your back straight. Regularly remind yourself to check and correct your posture to prevent unnecessary strain on the shoulders.

2. Employing ergonomics during daily activities

Practice ergonomic principles in your daily activities to minimize unnecessary strain on the shoulders. Ensure your workstation is properly set up, with your computer monitor at eye level, keyboard and mouse at a comfortable height, and chair providing adequate support to your back and shoulders. Consider using ergonomic tools or accessories to promote proper body alignment.

3. Doing regular shoulder exercises

Regularly performing shoulder exercises can strengthen the muscles, improve flexibility, and prevent shoulder pain. Incorporate exercises that target the shoulder joint into your fitness routine or daily stretching regimen. Focus on exercises that promote good posture, increase range of motion, and build strength in the shoulder muscles.

4. Avoiding excessive stress on the shoulder joint

Be mindful of activities that put excessive stress on the shoulder joint and modify or avoid them when possible. This may include heavy lifting, repetitive overhead movements, or participating in activities that require excessive shoulder rotation. Listening to your body and finding alternative ways to accomplish tasks can help prevent undue stress on the shoulders.

5. Using proper lifting techniques

When lifting objects, whether heavy or light, it is important to use proper lifting techniques to minimize strain on the shoulders. Bend your knees, engage your core, and keep the object close to your body as you lift. Avoid twisting or jerking motions, which can place unnecessary stress on the shoulder joint.

By implementing these preventative strategies, you can create a shoulder-friendly lifestyle and reduce the incidence of shoulder pain at night. However, if you experience persistent or worsening symptoms, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation and guidance.

In summary, shoulder pain at night can be caused by various factors, including rotator cuff injuries, shoulder impingement syndrome, arthritis, tendonitis, and frozen shoulder. To find relief, adjusting your sleeping positions, incorporating pain management techniques, engaging in shoulder stretches before bed, and doing exercises to strengthen your shoulders can all be effective strategies. Additionally, adjusting your sleeping environment, using supportive devices, avoiding triggers, seeking medical advice, and practicing preventive measures can further contribute to alleviating shoulder pain at night. Remember, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan to address your specific shoulder pain concerns.

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