Shoulder Pain At Night: How To Find Relief

Shoulder pain: How to find relief

Shoulder Pain At Night: How To Find Relief

Shoulder pain can affect you at any time of the day, which can interfere with an array of day-to-day activities. When it comes into play at night time, it can make sleep near impossible, and this can mean the days following may involve not only discomfort but exhaustion-filled fog. So, why can shoulder pain flare up at night-time, and what can you do about it?

There are three main conditions that often create shoulder pain that worsens during the night, which is also known as nocturnal shoulder pain. These include rotator cuff injuries, bursitis, and tendonitis.

The ball and socket joint and the corresponding bones and soft tissues of the shoulder allow us to move our arm in many directions. The shoulder region is important and is frequently used each day. When shoulder pain is keeping you up at night, there are some points and tips that can help.

Common Conditions That Can Cause Shoulder Pain At Night

Pain within the shoulder can develop due to inflammation that is caused by a range of injuries and conditions that affect the joint, nerves, muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and other soft tissues within the region. The resulting pain can increase after exercising, or due to poor posture or overuse. It may be short lived or become a chronic issue. Other symptoms may develop too, such as tingling in the arm and fingers, numbness, cramps, and spasms.

The three most common causes of shoulder pain are:

Rotator cuff injuries

Tendons and four muscles primarily make up the rotator cuff, which contributes to the shoulder joint’s stability and movement, and connects the upper arm to the shoulder blade. This area can be pulled out of place or torn when undertaking activities that put strain and stress on it, such as falling, trauma, throwing, lifting, and overuse, or when the region is misaligned.

Symptoms Of Rotator Cuff Injuries

• Pain that typically increases at night and decreases during the day.
• Pain at the front of the shoulder.
• Decreased strength.
• Stiffness.
• Swelling.
• Popping sound during movement.

How To Improve Rotator Cuff Injuries

• Avoid raising heavy objects above your head.
• Avoid placing pressure on the shoulder joint.
• Avoid sleeping on the affected side of your body.
• Avoid movements that create pain, and rest.
• Concentrate on improving your posture.


Bursa sacs are found around the body. These fluid-filled sacs act as cushions to minimise irritation and degeneration in the joints. When joints are overused, the bursa sacs can become inflamed. Increasing the pressure on the inflamed sac while lying on the affected side often worsens the pain as the area is compressed. If untreated, bursitis often becomes a chronic and more painful issue.

Symptoms Of Bursitis

• Pain around the joint.
• Redness.
• Warmth.
• Swelling.

How To Improve Bursitis

• Avoid sleeping on the affected side of your body.
• Place a pillow or cushion under your arm to prevent your arm shifting forward, compressing the bursa sac and increasing the strain on your shoulder.


Tendons are important elements that attach muscles to bones. When this connective tissue becomes inflamed due to friction, poor posture, or repetitive movement, pain can occur. This can increase during the night, often because the soft tissues are put into a different position, which can cause irritation and decrease the blood flow.

Symptoms Of Tendonitis

• Pain in the joint.
• Stiffness.
• Swelling.

How To Improve Tendonitis

• Avoid repetitive movements involving the rotator region of the shoulder, such as throwing.
• Avoid putting strain on the area, such as when lifting.

General Tips For Pain Relief At Night

Decreasing pain in the shoulder involves similar strategies as doing so for other parts of the body. These include:

  • Take pain relief that is recommended and approved by your pharmacist or doctor.
  • Apply ice to the area.
  • Seek medical guidance, diagnosis, and treatment, which may include x-rays and scans, corticosteroid injections, physical therapy or surgery, depending on your situation.
  • Undertake recommended gentle exercises and stretches.
  • Regularly assess and improve your posture.
  • Rest the area.

When it comes to improving the pain during the night, try these strategies:

  • Place pillows behind you if you are a side sleeper, or beside you if you are a back or front sleeper, to prevent you from rolling onto the affected side.
  • Sleep in a slightly raised position by placing pillows underneath your back, shoulders, and head.
  • Carry out recommended stretches before going to bed.

Northern Spinal Can Help Improve Your Night-time Shoulder Pain

At the Northern Spinal & Sports Injury Clinic, we deliver a range of services, such as physiotherapy, chiropractic care, clinical Pilates, myotherapy, and osteopathy. Our experienced and friendly team will provide a comprehensive assessment, identify the cause of your shoulder pain, and develop a personalised treatment plan. Call to make an appointment with one of our team members to find out how we can help to reduce the shoulder pain you are experiencing at night.