March 24, 2021

How do I relieve my shoulder pain at night?


If you’re bothered by shoulder pain at night, it may be because of an injury.

At the end of the day, your muscles often become stiff and sore from work or recreational activities. Shoulder pain can be disruptive to your sleep schedule and cause stiffness in the morning as well.

In this blog article, we’ll share some common shoulder pain causes at night and how you can get relief—and a better night’s sleep.

Why does shoulder pain hurt worse at night?

There are several reasons your shoulder may hurt worse in the evening. Shoulder pain at night is usually caused by a pre-existing injury or your sleeping position.

Sleeping on your side applies a lot of pressure to one shoulder, causing stress on the joint. If possible, sleep on your back or stomach, so your weight is evenly distributed and you don’t become stiff in the morning.

When you fall on an outstretched arm or lift something too heavy, you could strain or tear a group of muscles in your shoulder called your rotator cuff. This injury is called a rotator cuff tear.

These injuries occur when your rotator cuff tendons get irritated, inflamed or torn. If you roll onto your injured shoulder in your sleep, it can disrupt your sleep and cause shoulder pain at night.

Shoulder bursitis from sleeping position

Another common shoulder injury caused from your sleeping position and that can contribute to shoulder pain at night is called shoulder bursitis.

The bursae in your shoulder are little fluid-filled sacs that cushion tissue around your joints. When the bursa in your shoulder is inflamed, a condition called shoulder bursitis occurs.

Although bursae are found all over your body, your shoulder is one of the most common places for bursitis. Repetitive motion that overworks the shoulder joint is a common cause for bursitis. When your shoulder is inflamed, it can be painful to apply pressure to the area, such as when you lay down.

When the tissue around your rotator cuff “catches” on one of the bones in your shoulder when you move your arm, it can cause subacromial impingement syndrome. If you roll onto your shoulder while you’re sleeping, the pain may wake you up and affect your sleep.

Make an appointment with a shoulder specialist

How can I stop my shoulder pain at night?

If you are experiencing shoulder pain at night, you should contact your physician. There is probably a reason your shoulder hurts, such as injury, and it may need additional treatment. Making some adjustments to how you sleep may lessen your shoulder pain at night.

A shoulder doctor may suggest you:

  • Adjust your sleeping position to your back, stomach or your healthy shoulder
  • Don’t involve yourself in activities that could hurt your shoulder more
  • Use over the counter pain medication
  • Use a pillow as a barrier to not roll onto your affected shoulder
  • Exercise regularly to keep your joints strong
  • Stretch out your shoulder joint before bed and in the morning.
  • Apply ice or heat to the joint.

Your shoulder pain may flare up at night because you have tension and stress built up from using it throughout the day. This can cause shoulder pain at night even when you aren’t sleeping on it.

Stretching and physical therapy exercises are important to keep your muscles and joints healthy. 

If these methods don’t work and you’re still having shoulder pain at night, consider talking to your physician about steroid, corticosteroid or PRP injections to promote healing.

Find out what’s really causing your shoulder pain

If your shoulder pain causes you to miss out on normal day-to-day activities, we can help. Request an appointment online or call OrthoIndy at 317.802.2000 to book an appointment with one of our shoulder specialists.

If your shoulder injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our OrthoIndy Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists.

Schedule an Appointment Call OrthoIndy 317.802.2000

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