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Shoulder Pain When Sleeping

Author: Niki L. Carayannopoulos, DO

For many people, pain during the day is one thing. To a certain degree, you can live with daytime shoulder pain if you have to. But pain that wakes you up in the middle of the night and interrupts sleep for hours at a time? Well, that’s a different story.

When shoulder pain prevents you from sleeping, it’s time to get help. We see many patients at Houston Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics whose nighttime shoulder pain keeps them from participating in their normal daytime routines. The cause? In many cases, this nighttime shoulder pain is caused by rotator cuff tendinosis.

What Is Rotator Cuff Tendinosis?

Rotator cuff tendinosis is a condition in which the rotator cuff, a group of muscle and tendons that meet around the shoulder joint, begins to degenerate. This is the primary cause of shoulder pain among adults in the U.S. If not addressed, rotator cuff tendinosis can lead to a rotator cuff tear.

Other potential causes of nighttime shoulder pain may include: frozen shoulder, instability, dislocation, separation and SLAP tears.

How to Treat Nighttime Shoulder Pain

Depending on the cause of your nighttime shoulder pain, an orthopedic physician may recommend some of the following strategies:

  • Try sleeping in a reclining chair. While sleeping in a recliner is not a long-term solution, a slight angle can offer some relief. You may find propping a pillow under the arm of the painful shoulder also helps.
  • Use an ice compression wrap. When used appropriately, ice compression can alleviate pain and help with recovery. Ice packs should not be left on extremities for more than 30 minutes. Talk to your physician first about appropriate ice therapy for your pain. (Learn more about RICE.)
  • Use anti-inflammatory medications. Advil and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can provide some nighttime relief, though long-term use of these medications should be discussed with your physician.
  • Consider steroid injections. Though not for everyone, steroid injections may provide sufficient pain relief, allowing you to sleep soundly once more. Talk to your Houston orthopedic physician to learn more.
  • Physical therapy. A custom physical therapy program may help you regain mobility, reduce stiffness and sleep better with less shoulder pain at night.
  • Surgery. Lastly, surgery may be an option, especially if pain has gotten to a point where it is disrupting your sleep on a regular basis. Ask your orthopedic surgeon about other options.

See a Houston Orthopedic Doctor for Shoulder Pain

If you are experiencing shoulder pain, consider seeing a Houston orthopedic physician for an evaluation. Call Houston Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics at (713) 756-5546. You can also schedule your appointment online.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.