Shoulder pain at night: why it happens and how to treat it

Have you ever gone to bed after a long day at work only to find that you can’t go to sleep because of a throbbing, painful shoulder? Unfortunately, shoulder pain at night can prevent you from getting a good night’s rest. The pain and stiffness can keep you from falling asleep or cause you to continually wake up.

Either way, it’s not a pleasant feeling and one you should look to get rid of your night pain as soon as possible! In this article we take a look at why your shoulder is hurting at night and some things you can do to get rid of that pain.

What’s causing your shoulder pain at night?

The source of your shoulder trouble can come from multiple places. These include general injury to your shoulder, arthritis and bursitis.

Shoulder Injuries

The shoulder is the most agile and flexible joint of the body. It’s also one of the most complex with many bones and cartilage making up it’s structure. It’s why your shoulder is able to move in different directions. However, this is also why it’s incredibly susceptible to injury. These injuries can include:

  • Shoulder sprains
  • Shoulder impingements
  • Shoulder dislocations
  • Shoulder fractures
  • Rotator cuff injuries

These injuries can occur from trauma or impact. Some of the biggest culprits to a shoulder injury is overuse, from sports such as tennis or basketball to excessive exercise or workouts.


Arthritis is the inflammation of a joint in your body. In terms of shoulders, this inflammation causes joint pain and stiffness. There are several types of arthritis that can occur in the shoulder.

An example is osteoarthritis, which destroys the smooth outer covering of humerus, which causes pain when your humerus and scapula (the two major bones of the shoulder) rub together. Another example is rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that causes the lining that lubricates the shoulder joint to swell, causing chronic pain.


Bursitis is the inflammation of bursa sacs, which are present in your shoulder joint. Bursa sacs are filled with fluid which help ease friction between bones, muscles and tendons. When your bursa sacs are put under too much stress they become inflamed and swell which causes pain.

Bursitis can be caused by overuse of the shoulder, lack of stretching before exercise and sudden traumatic injury.

But why is it worse at night?

Your shoulder might hurt more in the evening due to a number of things. It may have been overworked throughout the day, leading to a more tired and stiff shoulder in the evening. Your sleeping position can also affect your shoulder pain. If you tend to sleep on your side, you might place your arm and shoulder in a position more susceptible to pain.

How to treat night time shoulder pain

Luckily, there are a couple of treatment options that you can do to firstly relieve the pain and then make sure the pain does not return.

1 – Heat and Cold Packs

Both heat compresses and ice packs can provide immediate relief to your evening shoulder pain. Heat compresses provide pain relief by improving blood circulation and improving elasticity. This effectively acts to reduce muscle stiffness and pain in your shoulder.

On the other end of the temperature spectrum, cold packs can decrease inflammation and numb pain in the area. It works by constricting blood vessels and reducing circulation to the area. When choosing between heat and cold packs, find which provides the most relief for you and your shoulder.

2 – Medication

Over the counter (OTC) medication such as ibuprofen and paracetamol can temporarily reduce shoulder pain at night. To add on to this, painkillers such as Advil or Tylenol have properties which cause drowsiness, helping you overcome the pain and get some much-needed rest.

For stronger medication, your doctor can prescribe you medication such as cortisone. Cortisone usually comes in the form of corticosteroid injections and is designed to help relieve pain and inflammation in a specific area. It is a minimally invasive procedure but it’s important to speak to your doctor to find out if it’s suitable for you.

3 – Massages

Massages have the double benefit of reducing pain and swelling in your shoulder, and then helping you sleep easier at night. Massages work by kneading, pressing and rubbing your shoulder to improve blood flow and circulation, and ease muscle tension. Like heat packs, they help reduce pain and improve flexibility.

The soothing movements involved in massages can also promote rest and relaxation in the rest of your body. This primes your body for sleep, helping you fall asleep quicker and for longer. Massages can be performed by a massage therapist or by an electric massager that you can use at home.

4 – Physiotherapy

The previous treatment methods are all designed to relieve pain but with physiotherapy, you can strengthen your shoulder and prevent the pain from coming back. A physiotherapy will take a close look at your shoulder and provide immediate relief through massages or e-stims.

But apart from that, they will also create a program of exercises that you can do to improve the conditioning of your shoulder. This program can consist of simple exercises which help build strength, endurance and flexibility in your shoulder joint. Physical therapy is perfect for making sure your evening shoulder pain never comes back!

Say goodnight to shoulder pain

Don’t let a painful shoulder keep you from enjoying a full night’s sleep. With our tips, you can say goodbye to shoulder pain and hello to a healthy, flexible shoulder!

Suffering from something else other than shoulder pain at night? At the OSIM Wellness Hub, we have articles and blogs which can help you! It’s filled with insights and treatment tips for all kinds of everyday pains, so you can start living a pain-free life. So head on over to find out how to massage your sore leg muscles or how to soothe tired hands now!




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