Shoulder Pain From Sleeping: Causes And How To Relieve Pain

Shoulder Pain From Sleeping: Causes And How To Relieve Pain

Waking up to shoulder pain despite feeling fine when going to bed is a terrible way to start your mornings. This constant pain can affect many of our daily activities, from brushing our teeth to washing our hair, and that is only the beginning. What could the reason possibly be if shoulder pain occurs without recent injuries or overexertion? Below, we look at the potential causes of shoulder pain upon waking.

Reasons Why You Wake Up With Shoulder Pain

Sleeping position

For patients experiencing shoulder pain in the morning despite having no history of shoulder problems, in most cases, the probable culprit would be their sleeping position. People that frequently sleep on their side may stay in a position that puts stress on their shoulder as it bears the weight of their torso.

This leads to causing their shoulder bursae or rotator cuff tendons to get pinched. Despite not hurting right away, maintaining such positions for several hours can cause an inflammatory response in the pinched structure, which causes pain.

In most cases, these painful symptoms subside within the first two days, but there may be others wherein the pain persists for longer. If you are among these rare cases, you should consult a physiotherapist or specialist for neck and shoulder pain in Singapore.


Osteoarthritis is a medical condition wherein the cartilage at the ends of the joints naturally wears down over time. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, and aching in any joint, but most commonly in the knees, hips, and hands. The most common risk factors of osteoarthritis include age and family history of the disease, and women are more likely to experience it than men.

Shoulder impingement

Shoulder impingement happens when surrounding soft tissue gets trapped in the shoulder joint, which may be due to inflammation in the joint or muscular imbalances in the shoulder. Symptoms include persistent pain not caused by injuries, pain and difficulty in raising the arms, and pain when sleeping on the affected shoulder.

Frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder is a highly painful health condition with unknown causes. It happens when the connective tissues in the shoulder joint thicken and thus restrict movement. The risk of getting a frozen shoulder increases as the shoulders remain immobilized for long periods for reasons such as recovering from surgery or an injury. Underlying health conditions like diabetes can also increase the risk of getting a frozen shoulder.

Symptoms occur in three stages: freezing, frozen, and thawing. The first stage is when pain arises when moving and reduces the range of motion. Next, the pain lessens, yet the movement is much more difficult, and the shoulder becomes stiff. Lastly, the shoulder’s range of motion gradually returns to normal.


There are various treatment options for shoulder pain from sleeping, with the best one depending on the specific cause.

Reducing inflammation and pain

Over-the-counter pain medication like Tylenol (acetaminophen) is the first line of treatment for most cases of shoulder pain. People with inflammation in the shoulder, shoulder impingement, or arthritis can also rest the affected joint to minimize the pain.

Physical therapy (PT)

Home exercises and physical therapy are highly effective treatments for shoulder impingement and RCIs. The goal of physical therapy when dealing with shoulder injuries is to improve the patient’s range of mobility and strength progressively. For instance, doing PT in a pool is a good way to lessen the burden of gravity on the affected joints and make it easier for patients to improve their mobility.

The type of physical therapy and exercise a person needs for shoulder pain will depend on the underlying cause. A physical therapist can advise people on which exercises are safe and which activities to avoid.


If physical therapy, pain medication, and other drugs do not suffice to provide relief, patients may be referred to surgery. This may involve joint replacement for those with osteoarthritis, while rotator cuff repair will be necessary for others with rotator cuff injuries (RCI). Patients with a frozen shoulder may be prescribed with arthroscopic capsular release surgery. There are several different surgery options to treat shoulder impingement cases: RCI surgery, bursectomy, and subacromial decompression.


In most cases, shoulder pain comes from improper sleeping position, an unsuitable mattress, or a combination of both. As such, preventing shoulder pain starts with changing one’s sleeping position and switching to the right mattress and pillow type according to your typical sleeping position. Last but not least, ensure good sleep hygiene, as one study found that people who get less sleep or have poor quality sleep are more likely to develop a pain condition.

If you regularly experience pain around your shoulder area after waking, you should consult a pain specialist for proper treatment. Aside from shoulder pain, experiencing back pain after waking up from sleep is also a common occurrence. If you are experiencing back pains from sleeping, you should consult a specialist for back pain treatment in Singapore.

At Pain SG, our specialty lies in diagnosing, treating, and managing a wide variety of pain conditions. Thus, we offer services such as neck pain, back pain, heel pain, and ankle pain management that aim to improve your quality of life. Doctors for knee pain are also available for those experiencing pain in the knee area.

For more details about our pain relief solutions, do not hesitate to send your queries to