Shoulder pain at night: 6 possible causes

Did you know that at any given time shoulder pain affects between 18% and26% of adults? That’s up to a quarter of the adult population. And shoulder pain doesn’t just affect your ability to lift and carry things.

One study showed that insomnia rates were significantly higher in participants with shoulder pain versus those without it. So, not only can shoulder pain disrupt your activities during the day, it can also negatively impact your sleep at night. If you’re dealing with shoulder pain, it may be more difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Poor sleep habits can also cause more shoulder pain, creating a repetitive pattern of sleeplessness. Find out what causes or increases shoulder pain at night and how you can address it.

Why you get shoulder pain at night

There are many reasons you may get shoulder pain at night. Sometimes, the pain is from a chronic condition such as arthritis or an injury. You can also get shoulder pain at night from sleeping in a straining position. Here’s a list of common reasons why your shoulder may hurt at night:

  • Poor sleep hygiene — Many people sleep in awkward positions or are restless during the night. This increases the chances of straining a muscle or tendon during sleep, which can cause shoulder pain. 
  • Uncomfortable sleeping environment — If you’re sleeping on a worn-out mattress or pillow, you may not be doing your body any favors. Poor sleep posture can increase neck or back pain, making it more difficult to sleep well.
  • Rotator cuff injury — A rotator cuff injury can occur while you’re playing a sport or doing another recreational activity. Additionally, jobs that require repetitive arm movements could also be to blame, such as painting, carpentry, or lifting heavy boxes or inventory.
  • A pinched nerve — If a nerve in or near your shoulder blade gets pinched, it can trigger traveling pain. This pain can go from the shoulder up to the neck or radiate down the arm.
  • Osteoarthritis — Over the years, cartilage in your joint can wear down with repetitive motion, leading to inflammation and pain in the shoulder joint. 
  • Tendinitis — When inflammation attacks the tendons that attach the shoulder muscle to the bone, it’s known as tendinitis. An injury or repetitive movement in the shoulder joint over a long period of time can cause this.

No matter the cause, dealing with shoulder pain at night can be frustrating and exhausting.
No one wants to have difficulty falling asleep due to shoulder pain or deal with interrupted sleep because of discomfort. But your shoulder pain at night may not just go away if you ignore it. Our certified physical therapists are here to help you figure out how best to treat your shoulder pain so you can get a good night’s rest.

How to treat shoulder pain at night

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to dealing with shoulder pain at night. Your physical therapist can create a specialized treatment plan designed around your needs. Here are a few treatments your physical therapist may use to help you alleviate shoulder pain at night:

  • Ergonomic advice — Sometimes, simply replacing your pillow can alleviate neck and shoulder pain. Your physical therapist can work with you to determine whether your sleep environment may be contributing to shoulder pain at night. Ergonomic improvements such as a new pillow or mattress may be just what you need to reduce strain on your back and neck.
  • Stretching — Your physical therapist can advise you on what stretches may help you reduce tension in your shoulders. Stretching may not only release tension, but it can also decrease stiffness. If you stretch regularly, you may be less likely to tense up during sleep, which can decrease your shoulder pain at night. Your physical therapist can show you which stretches to do and how long to hold them for.
  • Manual therapy — Your physical therapist may use hands-on techniques such as joint mobilization treatments and therapeutic stretching. These manual therapy techniques can help release tension in the shoulders and back, leading to relaxation and relief. 
  • Tension management — Poor sleep increases the tension in your body. This can lead to tight, stiff muscles and pain in the back and shoulders. Your physical therapist can work with you on relaxation techniques to reduce tension. 
  • Electrical stimulation — If you’re in need of short-term pain relief, electrical stimulation such as TENS (transcutaneous electrical neuromuscular stimulation) may be a good answer. Electrical stimulation targets tissue directly to decrease pain and inflammation.

Shoulder pain doesn’t have to ruin a good night’s rest for you. There are a number of ways you can reduce your pain levels. The most important thing is starting the process of seeking help.

Don’t let shoulder pain at night disrupt your sleeping habits. Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

Schedule an Appointment

Related Posts

6 pinched shoulder nerve symptoms to mention to your PT

6 pinched shoulder nerve symptoms to mention to your PT

About 85 in every 100,000 people will experience a pinched nerve in their shoulder, resulting in pain, numbness or even a tingling sensation. But what is a pinched nerve? A pinched shoulder nerve, also known as suprascapular nerve entrapment syndrome, occurs when the...

read more
5 stretches for shoulder pain that you can do at home

5 stretches for shoulder pain that you can do at home

Shoulder pain is a frequent issue among adults. In fact, shoulder pain is one of the most common regional pain syndromes, affecting up to 26% of adults. Shoulder pain is annoying at best and debilitating at worst. It can interfere with regular activities such as golf...

read more