Do You Have Shoulder Pain or Pains After You Sleep?

By: Drew Heideman PT/ATC

These are common questions that people ask when they are experiencing shoulder pain due to: bursitis, tendonitis, shoulder traumatic injury and rotator cuff tear or impingement. Between the shoulder blade and the humerus, there are many muscles, tendons, and a bursa. 

The bursa is a fluid filled sac that we all have in many of our joints. If you perform a task that causes you to reach over your head several times (repetitive motion), you may cause an irritation or inflammation (internal swelling) of the bursa.  The continued inflammation of the bursa is then called bursitis. 

Sometimes over the counter anti-inflammatories, ice heat or rest can help to decrease the inflammation. If you work with your arms over head, you have to go back to work even if it still hurts, and this swollen bursa can cause impingement or pinching of the rotator cuff tendon or tendonitis. Think of pinching a muscle and how painful that could be!  It is important to modify your activities in order to decrease the pinching or inflammation which is causing the problem.   To learn more about the anatomy of the shoulder, please go to this VIDEO.

What is the Best Position To Sleep with Shoulder Pain?

shoulder pains after you sleep Image of a Woman with Shoulder Pain

If you are having trouble sleeping due to pain in your shoulder, pain after you were sleeping or performing your normal activities at work, you may have one of the above conditions.  The quick answer is you can try sleeping with your injured shoulder towards the ceiling but resting your arm on a pillow or a rolled up towel. After a surgery to the shoulder you can also sleep in a recliner. If you don’t have a recliner, you can try sleeping in a reclined position using pillows and cushions from your chair.  It is important to not sleep directly on your injured shoulder.  Therapists often tell patients to sleep with shorts with pockets.  You can put a tennis ball in your pocket of your shorts and this will prevent you from rolling over onto your injured shoulder while sleeping.

Shoulder Pain or Pains After Sleeping

The shoulder areas mentioned above are also areas in our bodies that do not receive much circulation for self healing. When we sleep with rapid-eye-movement or REM, our bodies go into holistic healing mode. So applying heat to increase circulation to the area may be helpful. Heat is generally followed by gentle range of motion. If you don’t like heat, ice can decrease inflammation to areas. Everyone’s body responds a little differently to outside interventions, so what works for you may not work for your friends and family.

JOI Shoulder Anatomy Shoulder Anatomy

If your tendonitis or bursitis or rotator cuff impingement does not resolve with these home remedies, or if you are still having trouble sleeping at night, you should seek the help from your physician. Here is a good rule of thumb: once a condition gets to the point that you are noticing a distribution in your daily activities, it is time to see your physician. She or he can make a correct diagnosis for more specific treatment options and help with your shoulder pain or pains after you sleep.

Are you having shoulder pain which is not listed above? Read more about 5 common shoulder symptoms you should not ignore.  

JOI Rehab Has 12 Clinics That Treat Shoulder Pain

When treating patients for shoulder pain, clinicians typically concentrate on range-of-motion with active and passive mobility exercises. In some cases, patients will undergo strength training as a way to treat their shoulder pain. Lastly, electrical modalities such as ultrasound, laser and E-Stim (electric stimulation) may be used to help decrease shoulder pain.  

If you are interested in scheduling an appointment at JOI Rehab for physical therapy, call 904-858-7045

All JOI Physicians, Physical Therapists and Occupational Therapists now offer Telemedicine services for virtual visits from the convenience of your home.  There really is no need to live with shoulder pain after you sleep at night.  

JOI Physicians are currently offering ASAP Fracture and Injury Care.  Make an appointment with an Orthopaedic Shoulder Specialist by calling (904)JOI-2000, schedule online or click below