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  • Writer's pictureMiracle Rehab Clinic

Shoulder Pain At Night: Causes, Exercises, and Relief

One of the widespread complaints at a physical therapist's office is about shoulder pain at night.

Shoulder pain at night is pain that often doesn't go away no matter which side the person sleeps on. It can be stiff, dull, or numbing, as well as cause tingling, muscle spasms.

It's an issue that is troubling, and on its own. Shoulder pain at night brings out additional issues such as exhaustion, mood disorders, and others and lowers the quality of life.

It's imperative to take this problem seriously, especially if it's persistent and doesn't go away.

Let's look deeper into the causes of shoulder pain at night and what are the best solutions.

Issues Associated With Shoulder Pain While Sleeping

Experiencing pain in the shoulder after sleeping is a big enough problem, but unfortunately, it comes with additional issues.

Shoulder pain usually prevents people from sleeping properly, and the twisting and turning results in only a few hours of sleep per night (and sometimes even fewer).

Sleeplessness, in turn, then results in exhaustion, low energy, increased stress, mood disorders, and an even bigger sensitivity to pain.

It becomes this vicious cycle when decreased sleep causes even more and makes the condition worse.

Causes of Shoulder Pain at Night

Because the shoulder moves in all directions, it is more prone to injury than other joints. Shoulder pain at night can arise from various reasons, from injuries to aging, certain health conditions, and more.

Repetitive shoulder motions can also cause overuse, often occurring for people who do sports like tennis, volleyball, and golf.

Shoulder pain while sleeping can get worse with time and is often caused by such conditions as:

1. Injury of the rotator cuff. These usually involve injuries in four muscles that come together as tendons that connect the humerus bone to the shoulder blade. Inflammation, swelling, and general pain in the shoulder appear when these muscles are injured and torn. These injuries occur from lifting something heavy quickly and if the tendons are worn out over time.

2. Bursitis is an inflammation of the bursa, the fluid-filled pad that helps ease rubbing and friction between tissues like bone, muscle, tendons, and skin. Repetitive motions, infection, or spending long periods in one position can cause painful swelling.

3. Biceps tendinopathy is the deterioration of the biceps tendon that connects muscles and bones in the shoulder joint. As tendons get less flexible when we get older, we're more prone to injury.

4. Poor posture. It's one of the common causes of various back, neck, and shoulder pains. Poor posture, slouching affect the positioning of the shoulder blade, the muscles of the shoulder efficiency, the space available at the shoulder for movement, and other issues.

5. Work injuries. Even though physically intensive jobs are more dangerous and create more opportunities for injuries, according to Healthline, they are not the only ones. Office workers also have a high risk of developing them as sedentary work environments and work habits can weaken your muscles and set the stage for pain.

6. Stress and tension. During the day, we often experience a lot of anxiety or stress, and our bodies get tense, causing stiffness, tightness, and pain that is masked by movement and distractions. When we relax at night, the pain gets more intense.

Why Do I Have Shoulder Pain at Night Only?

Many people are often baffled by the fact that the sore shoulder from sleeping recovers during the day. The pain goes away and comes back when they go to bed again.

It might seem odd, but in most cases, the pain increases for the following reasons:

Vertical vs. horizontal positions. During the day, we spend most of the time in an upright position. The tendons engage and are pulled downward by gravity, creating pace in the shoulder muscles, increasing blood flow and oxygen, and alleviating pain.

When you're sleeping in a horizontal position, shoulder muscles relax, the joints settle, and decrease the flow of blood, allowing the joint to become inflamed. When lying on the shoulder, the joint also gets compressed, which increases inflammation too.

Sleeping position. Shoulder pain lying down can increase because of incorrect sleeping position. Sleeping on your stomach is the worst position and sleeping on the back with arms under your head minimizes pressure on your shoulder muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

How to Relieve Shoulder Pain at Night

When experiencing shoulder pain at night, the first thing you want to do is to reduce pain and swelling.

You can do that by taking anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, icing or heating the shoulder, wearing a compression sleeve.

You also want to reduce strenuous activities and rest your shoulder more for frozen shoulder pain relief at night.

Also, try finding a better sleeping position, e.g., switching sides, sleeping on the back, changing pillows, or even the mattress.

Creating a regular sleeping routine may also help as it reduces stress and tension. Try not to use any technology before going to bed, drinking soothing tea, taking a shower or a bath, or meditating.

Stretch before sleeping. Shoulder pain at night exercises increases blood flow, flexibility, alleviating pain and relaxing the body and mind. Don't overexert yourself and do some yoga or take a walk around the neighborhood.

Yoga helps relieve stress and tension in the neck, shoulders, and back. Check out some exercises to relieve shoulder pain that you can do at home here.

Physical Therapy for Shoulder Pain at Night

When none of the remedies bring results, one of the best things to do is make an appointment with a physical therapist.

In many cases, physical therapy for shoulder pain at night will provide the necessary relief without surgery. In other cases, it will help prepare and aid after the surgery.

Physical therapy strengthens the shoulder muscles and improves mobility. Check the advantages of one-on-one physical therapy here.

Your physical therapist will evaluate your condition and create a personal recovery plan. The length of the recovery will depend on each case.

PT usually includes:

  • Advice and information about how to avoid injury and at-home exercises

  • Heat therapy allows muscles to relax.

  • Hands-on therapy uses direction-specific pressure on the tissue to help it regain some of its natural mobility.

  • Stretching helps regain the range of motion.

  • ICE therapy helps reduce inflammation and swelling, pain.


Shoulder pain at night is a widespread problem that many people experience. It can be caused by injury, health conditions, poor posture, and other issues.

It's essential to address shoulder pain without delay to prevent deteriorating, and the best course of action is consulting a professional such as a physical therapist. Get to know the difference between physiotherapy and physical therapy.

Book your appointment with a physical therapist from Miracle Rehab Clinic right now and stop suffering from shoulder pain.

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