Shoulder Pain When Sleeping: Causes, Treatments & Tips


Experiencing shoulder pain when sleeping can be a frustrating and debilitating issue for many active parents. This vexing ache can impede your slumber, as well as have an effect on your daily tasks. In this blog post, we will examine the causes and treatments of nighttime shoulder pain to help you find relief.

We’ll start by identifying the different types of shoulder pain experienced during sleep and discuss their potential causes, such as rotator cuff injuries or frozen shoulder. Next, we will explore various treatment options available to alleviate your discomfort and improve your quality of rest.

Furthermore, we will provide practical prevention strategies that can minimize the risk of developing shoulder pain when sleeping in the future. Lastly, we’ll touch upon how chiropractic care could play a role in managing persistent nighttime shoulder issues for long-term relief.

Table of Contents:

1. Identifying Shoulder Pain When Sleeping

As a person who leads an active lifestyle, you may experience shoulder pain at some point in your life. Nighttime shoulder pain can be particularly bothersome as it disrupts your much-needed rest and recovery time. In this section, we will discuss how to recognize the signs of shoulder pain when sleeping.

A. Common Symptoms of Shoulder Pain

  • Night pain: If you find yourself waking up due to severe shoulder pain or discomfort during the night, it could be a sign that something is wrong with your rotator cuff or other parts of the shoulder joint.
  • Limited range of motion: Experiencing difficulty rotating or lifting your affected arm might indicate issues such as frozen shoulder or rotator cuff injuries.
  • Pain during daily activities: If simple tasks like reaching for objects cause discomfort in your shoulder, it’s essential to address these symptoms before they worsen and affect your quality of life further.

B. Factors That Can Worsen Preexisting Shoulder Pain at Night

Your nighttime routine and sleep habits can make preexisting shoulder pain worse by putting additional strain on already-injured muscles and tendons. Some factors include:

  1. Sleeping position: If you typically sleep on one side, resting directly on an injured or sore shoulder may exacerbate existing problems like bursitis or impingement syndrome. Experiment with different positions to reduce pressure on the affected shoulder.
  2. Poor quality sleep: Lack of restful sleep can lead to increased inflammation and pain in the shoulder joint. Establishing a consistent bedtime routine and creating a comfortable sleeping environment are crucial for promoting better sleep quality.

C. When to Seek Professional Help

If your shoulder pain persists despite self-care efforts, consulting a specialist such as a chiropractor or physical therapist is recommended to identify the source of discomfort and suggest appropriate treatment. They will help you identify the root cause of your discomfort and recommend appropriate treatment options, such as chiropractic adjustments, exercises, or refer for surgical consultation if necessary (source).

When it comes to shoulder pain when sleeping, being aware of the signs and symptoms can help you make an informed decision on how best to treat your condition. Moving ahead, let’s explore the potential causes of this kind of soreness.

Key Takeaway:

If you experience shoulder pain when sleeping, it could be a sign of rotator cuff or other joint issues. Factors such as sleeping position and poor sleep quality can worsen preexisting shoulder pain at night. Seeking professional help from a chiropractor or physical therapist is recommended if self-care measures do not alleviate the discomfort.

Causes of Shoulder Pain When Sleeping

Shoulder pain when sleeping can be caused by various factors, including injuries, inflammation, and poor sleeping positions. Understanding the root cause of your nighttime shoulder pain is essential for finding effective treatment options.

Rotator Cuff Injuries

Rotator cuff injuries, such as tears or strains in the tendons and muscles surrounding the shoulder joint, are common causes of shoulder pain during sleep. These injuries often result from repetitive overhead movements or sudden trauma to the area.

Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, occurs when the connective tissue surrounding the shoulder joint becomes inflamed and thickened. This condition leads to stiffness and limited range of motion in the affected shoulder, causing discomfort while resting or trying to fall asleep.

Shoulder Bursitis & Impingement Syndrome

Inflammation of a fluid-filled sac called bursa that cushions your rotator cuff tendons can lead to shoulder bursitis. Similarly, shoulder impingement syndrome occurs when these tendons become compressed between bones in your upper arm and shoulder blade. Both conditions can cause severe shoulder pain during sleep.


Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that causes cartilage breakdown, leading to pain, aching, and stiffness in the affected joints. Shoulder osteoarthritis can make preexisting shoulder pain worse when sleeping due to increased pressure on the joint while lying down.

Poor Sleeping Position

Your sleeping position can also contribute to nighttime shoulder discomfort. For example, side-sleepers may experience more pressure on their shoulders than back or stomach sleepers. Additionally, poor quality sleep leads to muscle tension and stress-related inflammation in your neck and shoulders.

  • Tip: If you suspect that your sleeping position is causing your shoulder pain, try experimenting with different positions or using pillows for support to alleviate pressure on the affected area.

Shoulder pain when sleeping can have a variety of causes, and understanding the underlying cause is key to finding effective treatments. Fortunately, there are a range of treatments which can be utilized to reduce the discomfort caused by shoulder pain during sleep and improve overall sleep quality.

Key Takeaway:

Shoulder pain when sleeping can be caused by injuries, inflammation, and poor sleeping positions. Rotator cuff injuries, frozen shoulder, bursitis & impingement syndrome, osteoarthritis and poor quality sleep are common causes of nighttime shoulder discomfort. Understanding the root cause is essential for finding effective treatment options such as experimenting with different sleeping positions or using pillows for support to alleviate pressure on the affected area.

Treating Shoulder Pain When Sleeping

If you’re experiencing shoulder pain at night, it’s essential to find effective treatments that can help you get a restful night’s sleep. Here are some options to consider:

Adjust Your Sleeping Position

One of the simplest ways to treat nighttime shoulder pain is by changing your sleeping position. If you typically sleep on your affected shoulder, try switching sides or sleeping on your back. Using a pillow between your knees and another one under your arm can also provide additional support and reduce pressure on the painful area.

Apply Ice or Heat Therapy

Applying ice packs or heating pads to the sore shoulder can help alleviate pain and inflammation. Apply ice packs or heating pads to the affected area for 15-20 minutes at regular intervals within the first two days after injury, then transition to heat therapy as necessary.

Chiropractic Care

Adjustments to the shoulder joints, upper back, and neck can help to restore proper motion to the shoulder.  Chiropractors are trained to assess the shoulder, in addition to the involved structures and nerves.

Physical Therapy and Exercises

Incorporating targeted exercises into your daily routine can strengthen rotator cuff muscles, improve flexibility, and promote healing of injured tendons. A physical therapist will design a personalized program tailored to your specific needs and shoulder condition.

Massage Therapy

Regular massage sessions can help relax tight muscles, improve blood flow to the affected area, and reduce pain. Consider visiting a licensed massage therapist or learning self-massage techniques for at-home relief.

Medical Treatments

If conservative treatments don’t provide adequate relief, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional who may recommend additional options such as:

  • Corticosteroid injections: Injections of corticosteroids into the shoulder joint can temporarily relieve inflammation and pain caused by conditions like frozen shoulder or rotator cuff injuries.
  • Surgery: In severe cases of nighttime shoulder pain due to structural issues within the joint (e.g., torn tendons), surgery might be necessary. Procedures like arthroscopic capsular release surgery involve repairing damaged structures using minimally invasive techniques.

Obtaining relief from shoulder pain while slumbering is essential for a restful night’s sleep, and this can be achieved through the assistance of an experienced chiropractor. Prevention strategies for shoulder pain when sleeping are just as important, so let us explore what can be done to reduce or eliminate this discomfort in the future.

Key Takeaway:

To treat shoulder pain when sleeping, one can adjust their sleeping position by switching sides or using a pillow for support. Applying ice or heat therapy and taking over-the-counter medications like NSAIDs may also provide relief, while physical therapy, massage therapy, corticosteroid injections, or surgery could be necessary in severe cases.

4. Prevention Strategies for Shoulder Pain When Sleeping

Preventing shoulder pain when sleeping is crucial to ensure a restful night’s sleep and maintain an active lifestyle. Here are some strategies that can help you reduce the risk of experiencing nighttime shoulder pain:

A. Choose the Right Sleeping Position

Your sleeping position plays a significant role in preventing shoulder pain. Avoid sleeping on your affected shoulder, as it puts more pressure on the joint and rotator cuff muscles. Instead, try sleeping on your back or unaffected side with proper support from pillows.

B. Maintain Good Posture Throughout the Day

Poor posture during daily activities can lead to muscle imbalances and increased stress on your shoulders, making preexisting shoulder pain worse at night. Focus on maintaining good posture while sitting, standing, and performing physical tasks to prevent nighttime discomfort.  Your chiropractor can help answer questions related to your posture as well.

C. Strengthen Your Shoulder Muscles

  • Routine Exercise: Engage in regular exercise that targets all major muscle groups around your shoulders to keep them strong and flexible.
  • Rotator Cuff Exercises: Incorporate specific exercises like external rotations or scapular retractions into your routine to strengthen rotator cuff muscles and tendons.
  • Frozen Shoulder Stretches: If you have frozen shoulder symptoms such as stiffness or limited range of motion, perform gentle stretches regularly under professional guidance.

D: Manage Stress Levels Effectively

Poor quality sleep leads to higher levels of stress hormones which may exacerbate existing inflammation within joints including those found in the shoulder. Practice stress management techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises or yoga to help improve sleep quality and reduce nighttime pain.

E: Consult a Chiropractor for Regular Checkups

Regular chiropractic care can help identify potential issues with your shoulder joint before they become severe enough to cause night pain. A chiropractor will assess your posture, range of motion, and overall musculoskeletal health to provide personalized recommendations on how to prevent future shoulder injuries.

Incorporating these prevention strategies into your daily routine can significantly reduce the risk of experiencing shoulder pain when sleeping. Remember that consistency is key - making small changes every day will lead to long-term improvements in both your sleep quality and overall well-being.

Prevention strategies for shoulder pain when sleeping include proper posture, adequate support from pillows and mattresses, and regular stretching. Chiropractic care can be an effective solution to alleviate the source of shoulder pain, enabling one to achieve a more comfortable night’s sleep.

Key Takeaway:

To prevent shoulder pain when sleeping, it is important to choose the right sleeping position, maintain good posture throughout the day, strengthen your shoulder muscles through regular exercise and rotator cuff exercises, manage stress levels effectively with techniques like meditation or yoga, and consult a chiropractor for regular checkups. Consistency in incorporating these prevention strategies into daily routine can significantly reduce the risk of experiencing nighttime shoulder pain.

5. Chiropractic Care for Shoulder Pain When Sleeping

Chiropractors are experts in treating various musculoskeletal conditions, including rotator cuff injuries, frozen shoulder, and shoulder impingement. Let’s explore how chiropractic care can help alleviate nighttime shoulder pain.

Treating the Root Cause of Shoulder Pain

Rather than just addressing the symptoms of your nighttime shoulder pain, chiropractors focus on identifying and treating the root cause. This holistic approach ensures long-lasting relief from issues like rotator cuff tears or frozen shoulder. By conducting thorough examinations that include assessing your range of motion, muscle strength, and joint mobility, they create personalized treatment plans tailored to your specific needs.

Chiropractic Adjustments for Improved Alignment

Poor alignment in the spine or surrounding joints may contribute to increased pressure on the affected shoulder during sleep. A skilled chiropractor will perform gentle adjustments to correct any misalignments within these areas which can help reduce stress on the shoulder joint and ultimately relieve nighttime discomfort.

Soft Tissue Therapies for Enhanced Mobility & Healing

  • Myofascial Release: This hands-on technique involves applying pressure to the tight and restricted areas within your shoulder muscles, helping them relax and regain their normal function.
  • Graston Technique: A specialized form of instrument assisted soft tissue therapy that targets adhesions in the rotator cuff tendons, which can contribute to pain when sleeping. Graston Technique helps break down these adhesions, promoting better movement and reduced discomfort.

Educating on Proper Sleeping Positions & Lifestyle Changes

A chiropractor will also provide guidance on how to modify your sleeping position, so you don’t exacerbate existing shoulder conditions while resting. They may recommend using pillows for support or adjusting your sleep posture to minimize strain on the affected area. Additionally, they’ll suggest lifestyle changes like incorporating regular stretches or exercises targeting shoulder muscles into your daily routine.

Incorporating chiropractic care into your journey towards a pain-free night’s sleep is an excellent choice for those experiencing shoulder pain. By addressing underlying issues contributing to nighttime shoulder pain, you’re setting yourself up for long-lasting relief and improved quality of life.

Key Takeaway:

Chiropractic care can provide relief for shoulder pain when sleeping by treating the root cause of the issue, such as misalignments in the spine or surrounding joints. Soft tissue therapies like myofascial release and active release technique can also help improve mobility and reduce discomfort. Additionally, chiropractors may suggest lifestyle changes like modifying sleep posture and incorporating regular stretches to prevent further strain on the affected area.

FAQs in Relation to Shoulder Pain When Sleeping

Why Do My Shoulders Hurt at Night While Sleeping?

If you experience shoulder pain at night, you are not alone. Many people suffer from nighttime shoulder pain, which can be caused by various factors, including poor sleep posture, muscle strain from daily activities, rotator cuff injuries, or underlying medical conditions like arthritis. Additionally, stress and tension can contribute to shoulder pain during sleep.

How Do I Stop My Shoulder from Hurting When I Sleep?

To alleviate shoulder pain during sleep, there are several things you can try:

  • Adjust your sleeping position by lying on your back with a pillow for support or using a body pillow if you prefer side-sleeping.
  • Practice good posture throughout the day.
  • Incorporate stretching exercises into your routine.

If the pain persists or worsens over time, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment options. Depending on the cause of your shoulder pain, treatment options may include physical therapy, medication, or surgery.


It can be caused by various conditions such as rotator cuff injuries, frozen shoulder, or osteoarthritis. However, there are ways to identify, treat, and prevent shoulder pain when sleeping.

Treatment options include chiropractic care, physical therapy exercises, medication management, and in some cases, surgery. Prevention strategies involve maintaining good posture during the day and finding a comfortable sleeping position at night.

If you’re experiencing shoulder pain when sleeping or any other type of discomfort related to your musculoskeletal system, it’s time to seek help from Grand Health Chiropractic. At Grand Health Chiropractic, our chiropractor can offer you non-invasive treatments to target the source of your discomfort and help provide relief. Contact us today!