Why Do I Have Shoulder Pain at Night?

shoulder pain at night
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Shoulder pain can occur as a result of many different things, including injuries, conditions, and even simply sleeping wrong. But what about nighttime shoulder pain that you only feel when you’re in bed, not after you get out of it? There are actually several conditions that can make shoulder pain worse at night than during the day. If you suffer from shoulder pain at night, our orthopedic specialists are here to explain why that might be. You can also take a look at our shoulder pain diagnosis chart for a better idea of possible causes.

At SPORT Orthopedics + Physical Therapy, our orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists work in tandem to develop customized treatment plans for our patients. We begin by evaluating your symptoms, then we will work closely with you to find a treatment method that works best for you. If you’re tired of struggling to sleep because of night pain in your shoulder joint, we’re here for you. To schedule an appointment with the best Dallas orthopedic surgeons, please call our office at 469-200-2832 today.

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain at Night

why do i have shoulder pain at night

Many different injuries or conditions could make your shoulder hurt at night. Some of these causes are more common than others. In the following sections, we outline the most common causes of night time shoulder pain.

Shoulder Bursitis

Bursitis in the shoulder joint is one of the most common sources of a painful shoulder. The bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs that help to lubricate and cushion your joints. If these bursae become irritated and inflamed, you’ll feel pain and swelling which leads to more pain and more swelling. Unless you seek treatment for this condition, it likely will only make itself worse. Many side sleepers’ shoulder pain wakes them up at night, and the culprit is often bursitis. Sleeping on your side can put strain on these bursae, which in turn leads to inflammation.

If your shoulder hurts after you sleep on your side, consider changing your sleeping position. At the very least, try to diversify your sleeping position each night, and don’t sleep on your side too often. Most times, sleeping on your back will help alleviate pain in your shoulder.

Rotator Cuff Injuries

Rotator cuff tears and injuries are another common source of severe shoulder pain. Along with bursitis and tendonitis, it is among the most common causes of night time pain in the shoulder. The rotator cuff is a combination of muscles and tendons that work together to stabilize the shoulder and allow the joint to move smoothly. If the rotator cuff tendons or rotator cuff muscles are injured, this can lead to pain and swelling in the shoulder joint. These symptoms can quickly worsen if you sleep on your side.

Bicep Tendonitis

Tendonitis is another common source of persistent pain in the shoulders. If someone overuses their biceps tendon for a long period of time, this can lead to sharp, significant pain. Tendons also lose their flexibility as we age, which makes them more prone to shoulder injuries. Those who have a job that requires repetitive shoulder motion are more at risk of developing problems with their shoulder blade, rotator cuff tendons, and other shoulder problems.

Shoulder Dislocation

Dislocating your shoulder can also leave you with increased shoulder pain and an increased risk of future shoulder problems, such as a rotator cuff tear. Even if your shoulder has been fixed back into place, you will likely have soreness or lingering dull pain for a few days. Sleeping on your side on the affected shoulder can worsen your symptoms and lengthen your recovery process. However, anti-inflammatory medications can help in milder cases of shoulder and upper arm pain.

Frozen Shoulder

Also known as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder occurs when the shoulder joint becomes very stiff, often with severe pain. There are many potential causes of frozen shoulder, including shoulder injuries and other health conditions. It can be difficult to pinpoint the source of someone’s frozen shoulder without a proper examination from an orthopedic surgeon. If you struggle with a painful shoulder at night that interrupts your sleep, we recommend seeing a doctor immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.


Last but not least, osteoarthritis in the shoulder is another common source of night pain in the joints. Osteoarthritis can develop slowly over time, or it can progress more rapidly after one suffers an injury. Luckily, an orthopedic surgeon on our team will have a variety of treatment options for this condition, as we diagnose and treat it frequently. No matter the source of your shoulder pain, our specialists are here to help you fall asleep pain-free.

Why Does My Shoulder Only Hurt at Night?

why do i have shoulder pain only at night

Having shoulder pain after an injury or from a condition makes sense. But why is shoulder pain often worse at night than during the day? There are a few simple reasons for this.

  • Many individuals prefer to sleep on their side, which is not usually a problem. However, applying direct pressure to a rotator cuff injury or another shoulder problem in this way can worsen the condition. Sleeping on your back or on your other side can help alleviate this night pain.
  • Many professionals believe that pain and stiffness are worse at night due to increased inflammation in the shoulder. While we move throughout the day, this movement decreases the accumulation of inflammation. However, we lie still for hours during the night, which allows inflammation to accumulate in the shoulder.
  • Having weak or tight tendons and muscles in the shoulder can also lead to shoulder pain. Working with a physical therapist can give you the knowledge you need to build up strength and flexibility in your shoulders without worsening your night pain.

How to Relieve Shoulder Pain at Night

how to relieve shoulder pain at night

If changing your sleeping position doesn’t solve your problem, it may be time to seek treatment. At SPORT Orthopedics + Physical Therapy, we prefer to begin with conservative treatments for our patients. Not every injury or condition will require surgery at all. For this reason, we start with the simplest solutions and work our way up to avoid invasive surgeries right off the bat. Below, we outline some of the most popular conservative treatments for shoulder and rotator cuff issues.

Shoulder Injections

Cortisone injections into the shoulder joint are very popular for alleviating shoulder pain. They are a simple alternative to surgery that can give patients lasting relief from their pain. Many shoulder conditions benefit from steroid injections, but they are not an umbrella solution for every problem. Speak with your orthopedic surgeon to learn more about whether these injections can help reduce pain in your shoulder.

Physical Therapy

Working with a physical therapist in Dallas has many benefits. Not only can it help patients recover after surgery, but it can also help patients avoid it entirely. Physical therapy focuses on strengthening the muscles surrounding the joint, increasing flexibility and range of motion, and decreasing the risk of injuries in the future. Your physical therapist might also recommend that you change sleeping positions, at least until your night pain subsides.

The RICE Method

The RICE method is a tried and tested way to alleviate pain from injuries and certain conditions. RICE stands for rest, ice, elevation, and compression. This method is very effective for shoulder pain that originates from overuse or from a strained rotator cuff tendon. If a rupture occurs, however, this is unlikely to completely get rid of your pain.

Stretches for Shoulder Pain at Night

Strong muscles, tendons, and ligaments can greatly help decrease the risk of rotator cuff tears and other shoulder injuries. Stretching the tissues in your shoulder can promote blood flow, increase your range of motion, and ease the tension in your body, allowing you to sleep comfortably. Speak with a qualified Dallas physical therapist to learn the proper form for a multitude of different shoulder stretches.

What if Conservative Methods Don’t Help?

shoulder pain at night

If you and your doctor have tried multiple conservative treatment options, but nothing seems to help, it may be time to consider surgery. Especially after something as serious as a complete rotator cuff tear, surgery may be your only option. If your doctor recommends undergoing shoulder surgery, they will more than likely recommend the least invasive option. Surgery is generally recommended only after conservative treatments have failed, so your doctor is very unlikely to recommend it right away.

Shoulder Arthroscopy for Nighttime Shoulder Pain

If your pain continues after receiving conservative treatments, arthroscopic shoulder surgery may be the next step. Arthroscopic surgery involves a very small incision through which the surgeon inserts a camera in order to see what they’re doing. Rather than opening up the entire shoulder in open surgery, arthroscopy allows for less downtime, less pain, and effective treatment for your shoulder condition. Speak with your orthopedic surgeon to determine whether or not arthroscopy could help your shoulder pain.

Contact SPORT Orthopedics + Physical Therapy Today

At SPORT Orthopedics + Physical Therapy, we take great pride in not only helping patients heal from their injuries, but also in helping them get back to the activities they love. If your shoulder pain has created a vicious cycle of poor sleep and increased pain, it may be time to speak with an orthopedic specialist. Our providers are here to evaluate your symptoms, identify the source of your pain, and develop a personalized treatment plan that works for you. To schedule an appointment with us, please call our office at 469-200-2832 today.