23 May 2024
Why does your shoulder hurt when you sleep on your side? This article explores the causes of shoulder pain and offers tips for relief.

Have you ever experienced an achy shoulder when trying to catch some much-needed rest on your side? If so, you’re not alone. Many people often find themselves wondering why their shoulder bothers them when they sleep in this seemingly comfortable position. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind this common issue and offer some tips to help alleviate the discomfort, so you can finally enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep. So, let’s uncover the mystery behind the pain and find solutions to help you sleep soundly once again.

Why Does My Shoulder Hurt When I Sleep on My Side?

Possible Causes of Shoulder Pain

If you’ve been experiencing shoulder pain, it’s important to identify the potential causes so that you can find the appropriate treatment and alleviate the discomfort. There are several possible causes for shoulder pain, including:

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

Shoulder impingement syndrome occurs when the tendons in your shoulder become compressed or irritated as they pass through a narrow space called the subacromial space. This can result in pain, weakness, and limited range of motion in the shoulder.

Rotator Cuff Injury

A rotator cuff injury refers to damage or tears in the tendons and muscles that help stabilize the shoulder joint. This can be caused by repetitive motions, trauma, or degenerative changes. Symptoms may include pain, weakness, and difficulty with arm movements.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. It typically develops gradually and can significantly restrict your shoulder movement. The exact cause of frozen shoulder is unknown, but it may be associated with injury, diabetes, or shoulder immobilization.

Bursitis

Bursitis refers to the inflammation of the bursae, which are small fluid-filled sacs that provide cushioning between bones, tendons, and muscles. When the bursae in the shoulder become inflamed, it can cause pain, tenderness, and swelling in the affected area.

Arthritis

Arthritis is a condition that results in joint inflammation and can affect various joints in the body, including the shoulder. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and shoulder post-traumatic arthritis are common types of arthritis that can cause shoulder pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion.

Shoulder Instability

Shoulder instability occurs when the structures that hold the shoulder joint in place become stretched, torn, or damaged, leading to a loose or dislocated shoulder. This can cause pain, weakness, and a sensation of the shoulder “slipping out” of place.

Labral Tear

A labral tear refers to an injury or tear in the labrum, which is a piece of fibrocartilage that lines the socket of the shoulder joint. Labral tears can result from trauma, repetitive overhead movements, or shoulder dislocation. Symptoms include pain, clicking or catching sensations, and reduced stability in the shoulder.

Tendonitis

Tendonitis, also known as tendinitis, is the inflammation of a tendon. In the shoulder, it commonly affects the tendons of the rotator cuff. Tendonitis can be caused by overuse, repetitive motions, or aging. Symptoms include pain, tenderness, and swelling around the affected tendon.

Sleeping Position

Your sleeping position can also contribute to shoulder pain. Sleeping on your side, especially if you place excessive pressure on your shoulder, can cause discomfort and lead to shoulder pain. The prolonged compression or awkward positioning of the shoulder joint can result in inflammation, impingement, or strain on the surrounding structures.

Weighted Blankets

While weighted blankets have gained popularity for promoting relaxation and improving sleep quality, they may not be suitable for everyone, particularly those with shoulder pain. The weight and pressure exerted by the blanket on the shoulder joint can exacerbate existing shoulder issues and cause discomfort. It’s important to consider alternative bedding options that provide comfort without adding strain to your shoulders.

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

Definition and Symptoms

Shoulder impingement syndrome, also known as subacromial impingement, occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff and the bursa within the shoulder joint are compressed or irritated. This compression can cause pain, weakness, and restricted movement in the shoulder. Common symptoms include shoulder pain that worsens with overhead activities, difficulty reaching behind the back, and a feeling of weakness in the affected arm.

Causes

Shoulder impingement syndrome can be caused by a variety of factors, including repetitive overhead activities, such as throwing, painting, or weightlifting. Poor posture, muscle imbalances, bone spurs, and structural abnormalities in the shoulder joint can also contribute to impingement. Age-related changes, such as the gradual wear and tear of the tendons and muscles in the shoulder, can increase the risk of developing impingement syndrome.

Treatment Options

Treatment for shoulder impingement syndrome typically starts with conservative measures. Rest, avoiding activities that worsen symptoms, and applying ice to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and provide pain relief. Physical therapy exercises that focus on strengthening the muscles of the rotator cuff and improving posture are often recommended. In some cases, corticosteroid injections or surgery may be necessary to alleviate persistent pain or correct structural issues in the shoulder joint.

Why Does My Shoulder Hurt When I Sleep on My Side?

Rotator Cuff Injury

Definition and Symptoms

A rotator cuff injury refers to damage or tears in the tendons and muscles that make up the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, providing stability and enabling a wide range of arm movements. Symptoms of a rotator cuff injury include shoulder pain, particularly when lifting or lowering the arm, weakness in the affected arm, and difficulty with arm movements, such as reaching or lifting objects.

Causes

Rotator cuff injuries can occur as a result of acute trauma, such as a fall or a sudden forceful movement, causing tears in the tendons or muscles. Chronic overuse, repetitive motions, and degenerative changes can also contribute to the development of rotator cuff injuries. Age-related wear and tear on the tendons can increase the risk of tears and injuries in the rotator cuff.

Treatment Options

Treatment for a rotator cuff injury depends on the severity and extent of the damage. Conservative measures, including rest, activity modification, and physical therapy exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles, are often recommended. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroid injections may be used to manage pain and inflammation. In cases where the injury is severe or doesn’t respond to conservative treatments, surgical intervention, such as rotator cuff repair, may be necessary to restore function and alleviate pain.

Frozen Shoulder

Definition and Symptoms

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by pain, stiffness, and limited mobility in the shoulder joint. It typically develops gradually and progresses through three stages: freezing, frozen, and thawing. During the freezing stage, the shoulder becomes increasingly painful and stiff, making it challenging to perform daily activities. In the frozen stage, the pain may subside but the shoulder remains stiff, significantly limiting movement. The thawing stage involves a gradual improvement of shoulder mobility.

Causes

The exact cause of frozen shoulder is not well understood, but certain factors can increase the risk of developing this condition. Previous shoulder injury or surgery, prolonged immobilization of the shoulder, diabetes, and certain medical conditions, such as thyroid disorders and cardiovascular disease, may contribute to the development of frozen shoulder. It’s believed that inflammation and the thickening and tightening of the joint capsule contribute to the characteristic stiffness and restricted movement.

Treatment Options

Treatment options for frozen shoulder aim to relieve pain, improve shoulder mobility, and restore normal function. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroid injections, and physical therapy exercises targeting range of motion and shoulder strengthening are commonly prescribed. In some cases, manipulation under anesthesia or arthroscopic surgery may be recommended to break up scar tissue or release tight structures within the shoulder joint.

Why Does My Shoulder Hurt When I Sleep on My Side?

Bursitis

Definition and Symptoms

Bursitis refers to the inflammation of the bursae, which are small fluid-filled sacs that provide cushioning between bones, tendons, and muscles. In the shoulder, bursitis commonly affects the subacromial bursa, located between the rotator cuff tendons and the acromion, a bone at the top of the shoulder. Symptoms of shoulder bursitis include pain, tenderness, swelling, and limited shoulder movement.

Causes

Shoulder bursitis can be caused by repetitive overhead movements, trauma, or direct impact to the shoulder. Certain occupations or sports that involve frequent and repetitive shoulder motions, such as painting, overhead throwing, or swimming, can increase the risk of developing bursitis. Age-related changes and underlying conditions, such as arthritis or rotator cuff tears, can also contribute to the development of shoulder bursitis.

Treatment Options

Treatment for shoulder bursitis typically involves a combination of conservative measures and targeted interventions. Resting the shoulder, avoiding activities that worsen symptoms, and applying ice can help reduce inflammation and pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical therapy exercises, and corticosteroid injections may be recommended to alleviate symptoms and improve shoulder function. In some cases, draining excess fluid from the bursa or surgical removal of the bursa may be necessary.

Arthritis

Definition and Symptoms

Arthritis is a condition that results in the inflammation and degeneration of joints, causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. When arthritis affects the shoulder joint, it can lead to shoulder pain, difficulty with overhead activities, and a feeling of instability. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and post-traumatic arthritis are common types of arthritis that can affect the shoulder.

Causes

Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, occurs due to the gradual wear and tear on the cartilage in the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder, causes inflammation and damage to the synovial lining of joints. Post-traumatic arthritis can develop after a shoulder injury or fracture that disrupts the normal joint structure. Other factors that may contribute to the development of shoulder arthritis include age, genetics, and repetitive overuse.

Treatment Options

Treatment for shoulder arthritis focuses on managing pain, reducing inflammation, and improving joint function. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroid injections, and physical therapy exercises can help alleviate symptoms and improve shoulder mobility. In some cases, surgical options, such as joint replacement or arthroscopy, may be considered to relieve severe pain and restore joint function.

Shoulder Instability

Definition and Symptoms

Shoulder instability refers to a condition where the structures that hold the shoulder joint in place become loose, stretched, or damaged, resulting in the shoulder slipping out of place or feeling unstable. Symptoms of shoulder instability include a sensation of the shoulder “slipping” or “popping” out of joint, pain with certain movements, weakness, and reduced range of motion.

Causes

Shoulder instability can occur as a result of acute trauma, such as a fall or a sudden impact that forces the shoulder out of its socket. It can also develop gradually as a result of repetitive overhead activities, ligament laxity, muscle imbalances, or structural abnormalities in the shoulder joint. Certain sports or occupations that involve repetitive overhead motions, such as throwing or reaching, can increase the risk of shoulder instability.

Treatment Options

Treatment for shoulder instability aims to restore joint stability, relieve pain, and improve shoulder function. Conservative measures, including rest, physical therapy exercises to strengthen the surrounding muscles, and activity modification, may be recommended initially. In cases of recurrent or severe instability, surgical options, such as a shoulder stabilization procedure or ligament repair, may be considered to restore stability and prevent further dislocations.

Labral Tear

Definition and Symptoms

A labral tear refers to an injury or tear in the labrum, which is a piece of fibrocartilage that lines the socket of the shoulder joint. Labral tears can cause pain, clicking or catching sensations, reduced stability in the shoulder, and limited range of motion. Depending on the location and extent of the tear, symptoms may vary.

Causes

Labral tears can result from acute trauma, such as a dislocation or a forceful impact to the shoulder, or from repetitive overhead motions, especially in sports like baseball or swimming. Structural abnormalities in the shoulder joint, such as a shallow socket or a ligament laxity, can increase the risk of labral tears. Age-related degeneration and wear and tear on the labrum may also contribute to the development of tears.

Treatment Options

Treatment options for labral tears depend on the severity, size, and location of the tear, as well as the individual’s symptoms and lifestyle. Conservative approaches, including rest, physical therapy exercises to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder joint, and pain management, may be recommended initially. In cases where conservative measures fail to provide relief, arthroscopic surgery may be necessary to repair or remove the damaged portion of the labrum.

Tendonitis

Definition and Symptoms

Tendonitis, also known as tendinitis, refers to the inflammation of a tendon. In the shoulder, it commonly affects the tendons of the rotator cuff, causing pain, tenderness, swelling, and limited range of motion. Symptoms may worsen with certain arm movements or overhead activities.

Causes

Tendonitis in the shoulder can occur due to overuse, repetitive motions, or direct trauma to the tendons. Aging and degenerative changes in the tendons can also contribute to the development of tendonitis. Poor posture, muscle imbalances, and abnormal shoulder mechanics can increase the risk of tendonitis.

Treatment Options

Treatment for shoulder tendonitis focuses on reducing inflammation, relieving pain, and promoting tendon healing. Rest, activity modification, and applying ice to the affected area can help alleviate symptoms. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroid injections, and physical therapy exercises aimed at strengthening the shoulder muscles and improving posture may be prescribed. In resistant cases, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy or minimally invasive procedures, such as ultrasound-guided percutaneous tenotomy or tenodesis, may be considered.

Weighted Blankets

Effects on Shoulders

Weighted blankets have gained popularity for their potential to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. However, if you experience shoulder pain or discomfort, using a weighted blanket can exacerbate the symptoms. The weight and pressure exerted on the shoulders can put additional strain on the already sensitive or injured structures, potentially causing further pain and discomfort. It’s essential to consider alternative bedding options that provide comfort and support without compromising your shoulder health.

Alternatives to Weighted Blankets

If you’re experiencing shoulder pain or discomfort, there are several alternative bedding options that can help alleviate pressure and provide better support for your shoulders. Opting for a supportive mattress and pillow can make a significant difference in reducing shoulder pain while sleeping. Look for pillows that offer proper alignment and support for your head, neck, and shoulders. Additionally, using a body pillow or positioning pillows can help distribute weight more evenly and provide better support to your shoulders. Experiment with different sleep positions, such as sleeping on your back or using a specialized shoulder support pillow, to find the most comfortable position that reduces pressure and strain on your shoulders.

In conclusion, shoulder pain can have various causes, including shoulder impingement syndrome, rotator cuff injuries, frozen shoulder, bursitis, arthritis, shoulder instability, labral tears, tendonitis, and even your sleeping position. Understanding the underlying cause of your shoulder pain is essential for effective treatment and pain management. If you’re experiencing persistent or worsening shoulder pain, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. Remember, addressing the root cause of the pain will not only provide relief but also help you maintain long-term shoulder health and improve your overall quality of life.

About The Author