Help! My Shoulder Hurts After Sleeping!

Do You Wonder Why Your Shoulder Hurts After Sleeping?

Watch this video to learn why your shoulder hurts after sleeping, and what you can do get a good night's sleep without your shoulder hurting in the morning.

6 Simple Solutions For Rotator Cuff & Shoulder Pain More 4 Life Physical Therapy St. Louis MO 63011 Gladly Serving Ballwin, Manchester, Chesterfield, Des Peres, Ellisville, and St. Louis County.

It's No Fun When Your Shoulder Hurts After Sleeping

You've had a long, hard day, and now it's time to lay down to rest.

But for many people who suffer with shoulder pain, night time can be one of the worst times of day, especially if you sleep on the side of the shoulder that hurts.

You may toss and turn all night when sleeping, and when you roll over on your sore shoulder, it wakes you up and keeps from getting getting a good night's sleep.

Furthermore, even if you can sleep, then after laying on your shoulder all night, then your shoulder hurts after sleeping when you wake up in the morning.

Here's Why Your Shoulder Hurts After Sleeping

Your shoulder is a ball and socket joint as shown in the picture below:

Anatomy picture explaining why your shoulder hurts after sleeping

Sleeping On The Side Of The Shoulder That Hurts

When you sleep on your sore shoulder, you jam the ball into the socket, compressing the joint surfaces together.  This can be especially painful if you have arthritis in your shoulder.

More commonly though, you end up pinching your rotator cuff tendons ("tendon of supraspinatus muscle" in the picture) or subacromial bursa between the ball of your shoulder and the arch over top your shoulder ("acromion" in the picture).

Sleeping With Your Sore Shoulder On The Top Side

If you sleep on the opposite side from the shoulder that hurts with your sore shoulder on top, your sore shoulder drapes across your body.

This can pinch the rotator cuff tendons against a hook of bone that sits across the front of the shoulder called the corocoid process.

impingement of the rotator cuff tendons agains the coracoid process of scapula can cause your shoulder to hurt after sleeping

To summarize, regardless of which side you sleep on, if you have shoulder pain, there's a chance that you can get shoulder pain when sleeping.

Do I Need To Sleep On My Back If I Have Shoulder Pain?

Sleeping on your back is one way to keep your shoulder from hurting after you sleep.  However, sometimes even sleeping on your back can cause shoulder pain, although it's much less common than shoulder pain from sleeping on your side.

If you sleep on your back, it's a good idea to keep a pillow underneath your elbow in order to keep your elbow level with your body, or slightly in front of your body.

This keeps the ball of the shoulder (humeral head) centered in the socket.

However, some people just can't sleep well on their back.

If that's you, don't worry.  You can still sleep without your shoulder hurting, even if you're a side-sleeper.

6 Simple Solutions For Rotator Cuff & Shoulder Pain More 4 Life Physical Therapy St. Louis MO 63011 Gladly Serving Ballwin, Manchester, Chesterfield, Des Peres, Ellisville, and St. Louis County.

How To Sleep On Your Side Without Your Shoulder Hurting

Use these tips to keep your shoulder from hurting when sleeping on the side of your sore shoulder:

  1. Don't sleep directly on your side.  Roll back slightly so that the pressure is more on your shoulder blade rather than right on the ball of your shoulder.
  2. Make sure your neck is well supported by a pillow that completely fills the space between your neck and the bed.  This will help keep the muscles on top of your shoulder from getting stiff or tight.  It also helps prevent neck pain when sleeping.

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Use these tips to keep your shoulder from hurting when sleeping on the opposite side as your sore shoulder:

  1. This is most likely a better position to sleep in than laying on your sore shoulder.
  2. Hug a pillow with your arm to keep your arm from draping across your body so that you don't pinch your rotator cuff tendons against the coracoid process as mentioned above.

What Else Can Cause Your Shoulder To Hurt After Sleeping?

Your neck can also refer pain into the shoulder, particularly the C5 nerve root from your neck.  This is a very common cause of shoulder pain after sleeping.

Using a properly fit pillow as mentioned above is one of the best things you can do to keep your neck and shoulder from hurting while sleeping.

However, if you haven't had your neck ruled out as a cause of shoulder pain, then it's a good idea to do so, especially if you have a frozen shoulder or you're considering having shoulder surgery.

Sadly, there are many people who have shoulder surgery and continue to have pain afterwards.

In some cases, this is due to an underlying undiagnosed neck problem that was causing some (or all) of their shoulder pain, even if they had a rotator cuff tear no their MRI.

If you need some help to discover if your shoulder pain is coming from your rotator cuff, your neck, or a combination of both, click the button below to request a Free Shoulder Pain Discovery Visit:

What You Do When You're Awake Affects How Your Shoulder Feels When You're Sleeping

So, we've gone over what causes shoulder pain when sleeping and how to sleep at night so that your shoulder doesn't hurt.

However, the bigger question is:

What caused your shoulder to start hurting in the first place?

Most of the time, that has more to do with what you do during the day than what you do at night.

For example, if you sit with your shoulders rounded, this cause the the arch of the shoulder to lower downwards and pinch the rotator cuff tendons.

If you always lean over to one side with your weight resting on your sore elbow, this can jam the ball of the shoulder up into the socket.

Sitting with proper posture while working at a desk can help prevent neck and shoulder pain.

Additionally using proper technique when reaching overhead such as when painting, putting away dishes, playing tennis or pickleball, golfing, or lifting weights can also prevent your rotator cuff tendons from getting inflamed.

Once your rotator cuff tendons get irritated or inflamed, then sleeping can make your shoulders hurt more, but it's rarely the root cause of the pain.

Want To Discover The Root Cause Of Your Shoulder Pain?

Click the button below to request a Free Shoulder Pain Discovery Visit

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