Do you get shoulder pain at night?
Is your shoulder causing you pain at night? Waking you from a deep sleep? Stopping you from getting back to sleep in the middle of the night?
Shoulder pain at night in the shoulder and upper arm is common for many shoulder conditions.
Some of the shoulder conditions that may present with pain at night include tendon injuries (tendinopathy) and rotator cuff tears, impingement and bursitis or arthritis of the shoulder joint.
Pain in the shoulder at night can make sleeping difficult due to the discomfort that affects getting to sleep in the first place. Pain that may wake you when you are asleep. It may also keep you awake when you wake up in the middle of the night.
It is often hard to find a comfortable position to sleep when you are experiencing pain.
Thankfully, there are some simple thing you can do to improve your sleep which is vital to general health and injury recovery.
Why Does my Shoulder Hurt More at Night?
There appears to be an inflammatory component to many shoulder conditions which tends to peak at night time when we are at rest.
During the day, you are more active and you move your shoulder and arm much more, although you probably try to avoid the movements which cause you pain.
We find that a painful joint feels better when it is gently moved which may be one reason why you have less pain during the day compared to at night.
Lying on your painful shoulder can increase the pressure on the joint which can be aggravating for a shoulder that is already swollen, inflamed and painful.
Long periods of compression on the inflamed joint may result from lying on the painful shoulder whilst in a deep sleep and this may further increase the pain.
How Can I Help My Night Time Shoulder Pain?
There are a number of things that you can try to reduce and ease the night time pain you are experiencing in your shoulder and upper arm.
1. Avoid Sleeping on your Painful Shoulder
Prolonged pressure on the painful joint can be aggravating for the shoulder. It can sometimes be difficult to avoid sleeping on your painful shoulder if that is the side you normally sleep on. Propping a pillow behind your back may help to reduce the likelihood of rolling onto your painful joint while you are sleeping.
2. Increase the General Joint Range
Gentle range of motion exercises can improve the overall joint health and may reduce the pain associated with stiffness of the joint.
As with any exercise, don’t push your joint into positions which cause you more pain.
This may increase the inflammation in the joint rather than ease your pain.
Try these simple exercises to keep your shoulder moving:
• Stick Flexion
Lying on your back, hold a stick with both hands with your arms fully extended
- Using your pain free shoulder to move them, raise your arms up and over your head
- Slowly return your arms towards your waist
- Repeat 10 times
• Shoulder Rolls
- Roll your shoulder blades up and back in little circles
- You should feel the muscles on the top of your shoulders working to lift your shoulder blades up and back
- Repeat 10 times
You can try these exercises just before you go to bed but don’t push them too hard to cause any increase in pain.
What If My Shoulder Night Pain Persists?
Having a clear understanding of what is causing the pain in your shoulder is a vital first step in managing your condition. An experienced Physiotherapist will be able to direct you to the most appropriate management strategies for your shoulder.
Medications including analgesics and anti-inflammatories may be useful to reduce the night pain however use of these should be recommended and monitored by a medical professional.
If you are experiencing shoulder pain at night time and it is affecting your sleep, the Physiotherapists at myPhysioSA are highly skilled clinicians with vast experience in managing shoulder injuries and are ready and waiting to help you.
Written by Ryan Florence-Rieniets, Sports Physiotherapist at myPhysioSA SPARC, Mile End in Adelaide. Ryan has a keen interest in helping people with shoulder problems. So if you are having trouble with shoulder pain at night, get Ryan to help you.