How To Relieve Shoulder Pain At Night

Shoulder pain at night is a very common issue among chronic pain sufferers. The shoulder is one of the most vulnerable joints as it has such a wide range of motion, which opens it up to various injuries and problems. So, why are you experiencing shoulder pain at night and what can you do to find relief? We discuss five treatment options ranging from shoulder stretches to chiropractic to interventional procedures.

Issues associated with shoulder pain at night

On top of the pain, most people with shoulder pain at night sleep poorly, which has a completely different set of problems associated with it. These can include:

  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Low energy
  • Mood disorders

Sleeplessness can become a vicious cycle of decreasing sleep and increased pain, which will only make your condition worse.

Causes of shoulder pain when night

Although many shoulder disorders can cause pain, the most common cause of shoulder pain at night comes from rotator cuff tendinitis. It usually is caused by irritation of the shoulder tendons leading to inflammation and pain. This condition can be caused by many things, including:

  • Tears
  • Poor posture
  • Overexertion
  • Repetitive work injuries
  • Aging

Rotator cuff tendinitis is known to affect millions of people in the U.S. each year and is a major cause of shoulder pain when sleeping.

Some of the other causes of shoulder pain at night are:

Why exactly does the pain increase at night even though it might be fine during the day?

Why do I have shoulder pain at night only? 

While this nighttime shoulder pain cannot always be explained, a lot of the pain comes down to:

  • Being still at night
  • Unrelieved tension and stress from the day
  • The sleeping position you choose
  • Your mattress

During the day, the shoulder is being actively used while you are in a vertical position. The tendons engage and are pulled downward by gravity, which allows space to be made in the muscle groups in the shoulder. This additional space allows for an increase in blood flow and oxygen that alleviates the stiffness and pain that would be present otherwise.

When you lay down to rest or sleep at night, you are generally in a horizontal position. This removes the effect of gravity and allows the shoulder muscles to relax. The lack of movement and the relaxation of the muscles allows the fluids in your joints to settle and decreases the flow of blood, allowing the joint to become inflamed. People also tend to lie on their shoulder while sleeping, which can compress the joint even further, and thereby worsening the inflammation.

shoulder pain from sleeping

How-to relieve shoulder pain at night

If your shoulder pain is worse at night, there are ways to ease your pain.

1. Find a better sleeping position 

The first course of action to relieve shoulder pain at night is to find a good sleeping position for you. Tossing and turning at night is normal for most people, but can agitate your shoulder if you land on it wrong. Sleeping on the opposite shoulder can help avoid this pain, but try not to sleep on your back.

If the pain persists, you can always trying wrapping your arm or wearing a sling to assist in preventing movement during sleep. Sleeping with a pillow under your knees can help alleviate any associated back pain.

2. Stick to a sleep schedule 

Along with fixing your position while sleeping, always make sure to try to stick to a sleeping schedule. Good sleep hygiene can make all the difference in your sleeping patterns. Having a consistent bedtime ritual that helps wind you down at the end of the day can do wonders in terms of reducing stress and tension, and improving sleep length and quality.

Try something relaxing before bed like a shower and make sure you fall asleep in a dark room with no electronics. Medication can also help you sleep, but be cautious of how often you use them. Constantly requiring sleep aids can be a major sign of a problem and the more you use over-the-counter drugs, the more you will need to be effective. In addition, if you’re using other medications, they may react poorly with the sleep aids.

3. Perform stretches for shoulder pain at night 

Exercising a few hours before bed can also be useful as it will increase blood flow throughout the whole body. This can alleviate pain, but also relax you enough to ease sleeping troubles. Try something low impact like a brisk walk or a bike ride, and then allow your body to cool down again before going to bed.

Further, certain shoulder stretches can help you reduce the tension and stress that has built up during the day. Not only are shoulder stretches an easy option, but they take only a few minutes at night. Stretching has huge health benefits like increasing flexibility, range of motion, and blood flow. Another big plus is that they are simple to do in your own home and require no special equipment. Before you go to bed, try these seven shoulder stretches to alleviate some tension and reduce your stress.

Shoulder stretch basics

If you start to feel pain at any time during a stretch, stop immediately. Stretching should be done to the point of mild strain. If you experience pain, you are going too hard and could injure yourself. This is especially true if the pain is sharp or sudden. It is a good idea for chronic pain sufferers to consult a pain doctor before starting too strenuous of a stretching routine as overexertion could exacerbate certain conditions.

For best results, always warm your muscles up a little before stretching. For the following stretches, it is best to do each for approximately 30 seconds to one minute for maximum effect. Also, make sure you are steadily breathing in and out in a controlled manner.

Chin retractions

This is a quick stretch that is great if you spend way too much time staring at a computer monitor. Slowly extend your neck outward, making sure your keep your chin parallel with the floor. Then, pull it back in to a neutral position that is straight with your spine, slightly tucking the chin in. Repeat.

Eagle arms

Sit in a cross-legged position on the ground. Extend your arms in front of you and place your left elbow in the crook of the right arm. Now, bend your elbows back so your hands are touching. Hook one hand over the other so that your palms are facing each other.

For this stretch, you should keep your palms together, elbows lifted in a 90 degree angle, and your hands in front of your face. Try to keep your shoulders relaxed and down. You should feel a powerful stretch in your shoulder blades as well as the lower part of your neck. After this, change arms by placing your right elbow in the crook of your left arm and repeating.

Cow-face pose

Take your right arm and reach over your shoulder aiming to lay your palm in-between your shoulder blades. Then take your left arm and reach up your back (not over the shoulder) also placing the hand between the shoulder blades. Try to interlock your hands and pull slightly.

If you are having trouble interlocking your hands, you can modify this stretch. Keep a towel or something similar in your top hand, and then grasp it with your bottom hand instead of clasping the hands together. Gently pull with each arm to feel your shoulders start to open up.

shoulder stretches 1

Standing wall stretch

While standing tall, reach out and place both of your hands on a wall. Walk your feet back until the arms are straight, but don’t let your arms reach too far above your head. Make sure you keep the shoulder blades open and relaxed downwards during the whole stretch. Also, avoid pushing against the wall and don’t allow your shoulders to press up and into your neck.

Shoulder blade stretch

Start by spreading your feet, so they are shoulder-width apart. Raise your arms above your head as far as possible and bring your palms together. Now, simply twist your waist by bringing one shoulder forward and simultaneously pulling the opposite shoulder back. Hold this stretch and then switch sides.

Half-dragon fly

This stretch begins by lying face down on your stomach. First, place your right hand palm down on the floor like you are starting a pushup. Next, lift your chest slightly and slide your left arm under your chest. Finally, square your chest with the floor and lower on top of your arm. Hold this position and then switch your arms.

If you want a deeper stretch in this position, you can move on to the full dragonfly. This is accomplished by lying on your stomach face-down. Crisscross both arms near the collar bones and straighten your arms out as far as possible. Then, allow your body to drape onto your arms.


Stand your feet hip-width apart. Turn your right foot forward. Turn the left foot so it is perpendicular with the right and raise both arms to shoulder level straight out from the body.Stretch your right arm up and forward, pulling your body up slightly. Then slowly lower the chest forward over the right leg until it is parallel with the ground. Place your hand on your thigh or calf, while avoiding placing it on the knee directly. Try to keep as little weight in your hand as possible, focusing on keeping yourself upright with your core instead. Extend the left arm completely upward towards the ceiling, if it feels comfortable. Finally, turn your head upwards towards the ceiling or down towards the ground for an additional neck stretch.

4. Try yoga poses for neck pain

Since shoulder pain at night is often related to neck pain, trying the following yoga poses for neck pain could also help relieve your pain. This video also demonstrates the triangle shoulder stretch.

5. Talk to a pain doctor about interventional therapies 

If these natural treatments don’t work to relieve your shoulder pain at night, it may be time to talk to a pain doctor. They can help diagnose the exact cause of your shoulder pain. If your pain isn’t due to an acute injury or fracture, they may suggest interventional treatments for chronic pain.

These shoulder pain at night treatments include:

  • Physical therapy to increase flexibility and reduce pressure on your joint
  • Chiropractic care to increase mobility and loosen tension
  • A regimen of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
  • Joint injections that can relieve nerve irritation
  • Surgery, but only for the most severe cases of shoulder pain at night

If more conservative treatments like chiropractic care or physical therapy haven’t worked, a joint injection provides a minimally-invasive treatment that doesn’t require surgery. You can learn more about this approach in the following video (while not a shoulder injection, it does showcase a knee joint injection using a similar approach).

Signs to watch for

It’s always best to consult a medical professional before starting any kind of treatment for shoulder pain. A proper diagnosis is always critical, so you may need an examination and other tests, such as an MRI or X-ray.

Shoulder joint pain can come from many different causes, but they share many similar symptoms such as being tender or warm to the touch. You should always talk to your physician if you are experiencing:

  • Excessive stiffness, pain, or swelling in your shoulders
  • Difficulty moving your shoulder or performing daily activities due to pain

Some types of shoulder pain such as arthritis can cause permanent damage, which can be mitigated if caught early enough.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, reach out to your doctor immediately:

  • You begin to experience a fever or chills
  • If severe shoulder pain is constant for more than four days or intermittently for two weeks
  • You start losing weight without reason
  • You have excessive night sweats

It is important to have these symptoms checked as soon as possible as these can be symptoms of serious conditions that should be treated immediately.

Do you experience increased shoulder pain at night? If you’re ready to learn more about treatment options that could work for you, reach out to one of our pain specialists.

42 thoughts on “How To Relieve Shoulder Pain At Night”

  1. It is 2:15 am, and my shoulders are keeping me up again. Just by chance, I decided to research ideas about relieving the pain-even a little bit. Since I’ve already been diagnosed as having bilateral tendonitis in both rotator cuffs, I just wanted to hear a different take on pain relief. I’m glad I found your site! Thanks!

  2. I’m 62 and fell outside landing on my right shoulder 8 weeks ago. I had regular x-rays taken and didn’t break anything. They think I might have torn my rotator cuff. The pain during the day is like a toothache that you’ve put anbesol on…always there but bearable now. The nights though are bad. Have woken up every single night in horrible pain. It’s going to drive me crazy!

  3. Hi, I suspect I have some kid of rotator stuff tear that causes some restrictions to arm movements. Okay during the day but really annoying at night. Dr, did not prescribe anything other than icing and stretches. After 2 months, no improvement. Should I ask to go for X Rays, MRI or ultrasound?

    Thank you.


  4. This is so useful! I’ve been suffering recently from shoulder pain and been trying to figure out a way to get rid of it! The yoga poses are on my list 🙂

  5. I just Google’d “Shoulder Pain Sleeping” and found this useful sight. I am in the beginning stages of starting my business, with my first patented product, the side Cradling Sleeper. I created and refined it myself after struggling for years with poor sleep quality, and it basically elevates the torso to comfortably relieve the pressure on the shoulder. It has been tested by many folks with rotator cuff issues with positive results. During beta testing, our subjects wore Fitbits to test sleep efficiency first without the Sleeper, then with it… It improved their sleep efficiency by up to 20% (more than an extra hour of sleep)! I’m interested in your company trying and endorsing and/or selling my American-made product. Please contact me to let me know if interested! Thanks, Steve

    • Hi Steven — Unfortunately we don’t endorse any products through this site, but we are so glad to hear about the success you’ve had with this project!

  6. Thanks for an excellent article . It never occurred to me to do my stretches before going to bed . Doing so has clearly helped . I still feel discomfort in my shoulder which does inhibit my sleep only once during the night . I then apply a little Icy Hot to my shoulder which works for the rest of the night . I have added some of your stretches to my daily routine. Thanks again.

  7. I’m 16 yrs old and have excruciating pain in my left shoulder when I sleep nothing is seeming to work as far as exercises and I can’t see a doctor…help please

    • Hi Dylan — Unfortunately we can’t answer specific medical questions on the blog. If you do have excruciating shoulder pain that is stopping you from sleep and isn’t resolved at all with rest, it’s necessary that you talk to a doctor about it. If you’re unable to access a doctor, we recommend talking to a family member, your school counselor or a teacher for help.

  8. Hi,
    I’m 54 and have been getting pain in my right shoulder for a few months now the doctor said it is my rotation joint I’m going to see a physio every week but it’s really not helping it keeps me awake at night and irritates at work it’s now gone to my left shoulder too it’s getting me down now

  9. 9 months ago I had rotater cuff surgery for a full-thickness tear as well as a repair to the biceps tendon as well as a labrum repair. The night pain is the same 9 months post-surgery as it was for the 12 months pre-surgery. Could there be another cause of this pain or is it that the surgery was not successful?

  10. every person who has unexplained shoulder pain or has been suddenly diagnosed with “tendonitis” without a reason, look into you history of medications!! It is a known side effect of many antibiotics such a Cipro, Levaquin…..that contain fluoride or fluorine. There is now a black box warning on these medications that it may cause tendonitis and/or ruptured tendons. Don’t chalk up to “I’m getting older….” This happened to me many years ago before the black box warning and I still suffer the effects from this 15 years later!

  11. Hi, I am 54 years old, I was doing exercise on rings for more than a decade, one day I felt some pain in my shoulder since then I stopped doing exercise but till then I am having pain in my shoulder and it increases many folds when I go to sleep. An inflation and pain is all the night, including chest and back.

    Please help

  12. hii ..i am at office now but can’t do my work because of severe pain in my right shoulder and just because of it my right hand also not working and i have immense pain daily and also at every night ,,i couldn’t take a proper sleep because of pain please suggest what should i do .

  13. Hi! I pulled/sprained my shoulder blade. Advil relieves the sore feeling during the day but at night when I lie on it I feel pain. I’m 75 and everything to get better slowly. What do you suggest? I’m getting anxiety over this.

  14. For the last couple of weeks I have had pain in my left shoulder at night and it would radiate down to my arm. For the last couple of days right shoulder is starting to ache is this typical or could this be heart related? My job is incredibly stressful also

    • Michelle, I had the same problem. Turns out it was pinched nerves in my neck. I had fusion of 3 vertebrae in my neck in ‘06 but still have immense chronic pain in my neck and shoulder, esp at night, but the pain running down my arm is gone. I think one of the main causes of my pain was from walking my dog who was medium size and pulled all of the time. I don’t walk dogs anymore, but the damage is done. I haven’t had a good nights sleep in over 15 years so now I have severe insomnia. Stress makes my pain immediately much worse, so I have to find ways to reduce it.

      • It may be too late for you but this might help someone with a dog that pulls on a leash. DO NOT put a harness on a dog, it only gives them more leverage to pull against you. Instead, try tbis product called gentle leader which goes around the muzzle (it does not restrict your dog from barking, drinking ir other activities. Google it, it worked great for my dog.

  15. Thank you for the article. I have been experiencing shoulder pain for a month now. It began in my right shoulder and I have been trying to sleep on my left shoulder and now both my shoulders are in pain. Why do you recommend against back sleeping and what is the proper way to position yourself if back sleeping is now your only option? Thanks for your help

  16. I just found your site and am wondering if you could help with any ideas of what is causing my pain. Just last night I have begun to experience pain in my left shoulder area, more on the top part of shoulder and towards the neck area. I don’t believe it is in the shoulder blade. It is a nagging ache type pain, but I have not done any heavy exercise, and it seems to have gotten worse overnight. I slept on my right side last night. I hate taking pills as I have been all kinds of meds since 2015 due to an auto immune situation. Any suggestion would be really appreciated, and I intend to try to see a Doctor today, to discount anything potentially sinister. Thank you for your help.

  17. I found this site when I googled shoulder pain at night. I’m sure it’s my rotator cuff- inflammation, maybe a tear. It aches like a ‘toothache’ at night. I’m going to try these stretches. You cannot give advice One on one but at least knowing what is going on helps. I’m 67 and seem to be slowly falling apart. Don’t get old!!

  18. I started having shoulder pain in my right shoulder quite suddenly a week ago. No injury or accident that I am aware of. And I only have the pain a night, but it starts well before my usually bedtime. 8 PM every night almost precisely. I have been sleeping with a heating pad and taking Tylenol at night and it in the morning it is gone. And then it comes back like clockwork, literally at 8 PM the next night.

  19. I have had breast cancer a few years ago and my left shoulder has been really painful for 2 months now. I just read up anouy a pancoast tumor?

  20. I have been diagnosed with a frozen shoulder. I have had steroid injections which havent worked. The night time pain is the worst and I cant sleep. Doing everyday things are a challenge and I dont know what to do. Any suggestions please.

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