Is shoulder pain keeping you up at night?

Shoulder pain is a common symptom associated with a variety of conditions. Whatever the cause, patients often find their pain is much worse during the night. This can lead to problems with sleep, and over time a reduced quality of life.

So, why is shoulder pain typically worse at night? Fortius Consultant Shoulder and Elbow Surgeon Mr Andy Richards explains below.

What causes the pain to worsen at night?

Inflammation is often the reason why shoulder pain is worse at night.

As you go about your day, the constant movement prevents inflammation from building up in the shoulder. During the night, you move a lot less and spend hours often in one position. This allows the inflammation to build up, causing additional pain.

Your sleeping position could also contribute to an increase in pain. If you lie directly on the affected shoulder, it will compress the inflamed areas.

Common shoulder conditions that cause pain at night

While all kinds of shoulder injuries and conditions can cause worse pain at night, the main culprits tend to be:

  • Bursitis

  • Tendonitis

  • Rotator cuff tears

Bursitis is caused when the bursa becomes inflamed. It tends to worsen until the condition is treated, leading to severe swelling and pain. Laying on your side will cause the pain to worsen during the night.

Tendonitis also occurs due to inflammation, and it often develops due to overuse of the shoulder. With this condition, you’ll find it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Some experts theorise that the pain may also worsen due to the effects of gravity. When you lie down, the tendons and muscles within the shoulder settle in a slightly different position. This can prevent blood flow to the area, causing severe pain.

Rotator cuff tears and injuries are well known for keeping patients awake. They can occur due to injury, lifting heavy objects, or overuse of the muscles and tendons. The pain tends to become worse during the night due to your sleeping position.

So, what can you do if any of these conditions are keeping you awake? Thankfully, there are some things you can do that can help.

If you are struggling to get a decent night’s sleep due to shoulder pain, here are some helpful tips you can follow.

Firstly, if you haven’t already then you should seek treatment for the cause of the shoulder pain. There are a lot of treatment options available in the form of conservative management and surgical intervention. After undergoing an assessment, an effective treatment plan will be created.

You should also pay attention to your sleeping position, avoiding sleeping directly on the bad shoulder. Working on your range of motion throughout the day will also help. The stronger the shoulder becomes, the less it is likely to hurt. However, make sure you follow the advice of a qualified physiotherapist prior to starting any shoulder exercises