Physiotherapy For Shoulder Pain Articles
Shoulder Discomfort Post-Sleep: Causes and Solutions

Shoulder Discomfort Post-Sleep: Causes and Solutions

Morning shoulder pain can restrict the individual's ability to move their shoulder freely, which can impede daily activities such as getting dressed, reaching for items, or performing routine tasks. The pain and discomfort may reduce the individual's ability to focus and concentrate on work or daily responsibilities, potentially impacting productivity.

So, looking for ways to alleviate and prevent shoulder pain is important to improve one's quality of life. In this article, we will explore the possible reasons why you may have a sore shoulder after waking up and discuss effective treatments to alleviate the pain.

Possible Reasons Why You Have a Sore Shoulder

There are several potential reasons why someone may experience sore shoulders. Here are some common causes:

Improper Sleep Position

One of the most common reasons for shoulder pain from sleeping is an improper sleeping position. When we sleep, our bodies should be properly aligned to avoid putting excessive pressure on our joints. However, many of us unknowingly adopt positions that strain our shoulders.

Sleeping on your side with your arm tucked under your head or sleeping on your stomach with your arm extended can lead to neck and shoulder pain.

Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

Rotator cuff tendinitis, also referred to as shoulder impingement syndrome, is a medical condition that occurs when the rotator cuff tendons become inflamed or irritated. This inflammation can lead to pain and discomfort, particularly during overhead arm movements.

The inflamed tendons can become pinched or impinged between the bones of the shoulder, particularly the acromion (a bony projection of the shoulder blade) and the head of the humerus (the upper arm bone), leading to pain and restricted movement.

Rotator cuff tendinitis can lead to weakness and instability in the shoulder, affecting the ability to perform routine tasks and activities that involve the use of the arms.

Rotator Cuff Tear

A rotator cuff tear refers to a partial or complete tear of one or more of the tendons that comprise the rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder. This type of injury can lead to significant shoulder pain and functional impairment.

A rotator cuff tear involves damage to the tendons that attach the rotator cuff muscles to the upper arm bone. This disruption can cause pain and discomfort, particularly during shoulder movements and at rest.

If left untreated, a rotator cuff tear can result in persistent or chronic shoulder pain, potentially leading to the development of secondary shoulder conditions such as arthritis or bursitis.

Scapular Dyskinesis

Scapular dyskinesis refers to an abnormal movement or positioning of the shoulder blades (scapulae) during shoulder motion. This condition is often associated with joint and muscular imbalances, leading to dysfunctional shoulder blade movement patterns.

Imbalances in the muscles surrounding the shoulder blades can result in altered force distribution and coordination during shoulder movements, contributing to pain and dysfunction. Improper positioning of the shoulder blades can also compromise the stability of the shoulder joint, leading to increased vulnerability to shoulder injuries and pain during movement.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterised by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. It typically develops gradually and progresses through three stages: freezing, frozen, and thawing.

A frozen shoulder leads to progressive stiffness and limited range of motion in the shoulder joint, resulting in pain and discomfort during movement. The pain and stiffness associated with a frozen shoulder can significantly impact the individual's ability to perform daily activities and may lead to a decreased quality of life.

Without appropriate treatment, such as frozen shoulder physiotherapy, a frozen shoulder can lead to persistent or chronic pain, affecting the individual's overall well-being and physical function.

Referred Pain

Referred pain is a phenomenon in which pain is perceived in an area of the body that is different from the actual source of the pain. This occurs because the nerves from various parts of the body can converge and share pathways in the spinal cord, leading to the brain interpreting the pain as originating from a different location than its actual source.

Certain heart conditions, such as a heart attack or angina, can cause referred pain to the shoulder, often the left shoulder, due to the shared nerve pathways.

Referred pain from the neck or upper back, which can stem from conditions such as cervical spine disorders or muscle strain, may also be perceived as shoulder pain due to the interconnected nerve pathways.

Diagnosing the Underlying Cause of Your Shoulder Pain

When experiencing shoulder pain after waking up, it is important to seek a proper diagnosis from a healthcare professional. They will perform a thorough examination and may order imaging tests, such as X-rays or an MRI, to identify the underlying cause of your shoulder pain. Once the cause is determined, an appropriate treatment plan can be developed.

Ways to Relieve Shoulder Pain

There are several methods for your shoulder pain relief. Here are some effective ways to alleviate discomfort:

Lifestyle Modifications

Making certain lifestyle modifications can significantly reduce shoulder pain. Here are some changes in your lifestyle that you may incorporate into your daily life if you experience shoulder pain:

Stay Active

Although it may be tempting to rest a painful shoulder, staying active within your pain tolerance is important for maintaining joint mobility and preventing muscle stiffness. Engaging in low-impact exercises, such as swimming or walking, can help keep the shoulder joint mobile without exacerbating the pain.

Be Mindful of Your Sleeping Position

Sleeping on your back with proper support under your neck and knees is generally the most recommended and considered to be the optimal sleeping position. If you prefer sleeping on your side, place a pillow between your knees and another one to support your arm and keep your shoulder in a neutral position.

Aim for Better Quality of Sleep

Getting a good night's sleep is essential for overall health and healing. Setting a consistent sleep routine, optimizing your sleep environment for comfort, and engaging in relaxation practices prior to bedtime can enhance the quality of your sleep. Avoiding caffeine and electronic devices close to bedtime can also contribute to better sleep.

Anti-Inflammatory Medications

Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can help reduce both pain and inflammation associated with shoulder pain. Anti-inflammatory medications act by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins, which are natural chemicals in the body that promote inflammation, pain, and fever.

By modulating the body's inflammatory response, NSAIDs effectively reduce pain and discomfort associated with conditions such as rotator cuff tendinitis, bursitis, frozen shoulder, or other inflammatory shoulder disorders. This pain relief can enhance mobility and functional capacity in the affected shoulder.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can aid in alleviating muscle tension and enhancing blood circulation to the impacted area, thereby fostering healing and diminishing discomfort. A qualified massage therapist can target specific muscles and fascia in the shoulder region to alleviate the shoulder and arm pain that you're experiencing. However, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist to ensure that massage therapy is appropriate for your specific condition.


Shoulder pain physiotherapy plays a crucial role in the treatment of shoulder pain.

A qualified physiotherapist like our experts at Phoenix Rehab can develop a personalised exercise program that targets the underlying cause of your shoulder pain. As part of this program, the physiotherapist may make the patient perform different activities, such as stretching and muscle strengthening exercises to improve shoulder stability and flexibility.

Physiotherapists can also provide hands-on techniques, such as joint mobilisation or soft tissue techniques, to further alleviate pain and promote healing.

Steroid Injections

In cases where shoulder pain persists despite conservative treatments, such as rest and physical therapy, your doctor may recommend a corticosteroid injection to treat shoulder pain. These injections can provide temporary relief by reducing inflammation in the shoulder joint. However, it's important to note that the effects of steroid injections are not long-lasting, and repeated injections can have side effects.

When to See a Doctor

While many cases of shoulder pain can be managed with conservative treatments, there are instances when it is crucial to seek medical attention. If your shoulder pain is severe, persists for more than a few weeks, or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, such as weakness or numbness, enduring shoulder pain shouldn't be an option, and you should consult a healthcare professional. They can provide a thorough evaluation, accurate diagnosis, and appropriate treatment options.

Final Words

Shoulder pain after waking up can significantly impact your daily life and overall well-being. By understanding the possible reasons behind your shoulder pain and implementing appropriate treatments, you can find relief and regain your mobility. With the right approach, you can overcome shoulder pain and enjoy a pain-free start to your day.

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