One of the common complaints expressed by chronic pain sufferers is that one or both shoulders ache at the time of day when they are trying to rest. The shoulder joint is complex and naturally susceptible to injury as well as degenerative disease. When shoulder pain occurs at night, we want to explore the potential reasons why so we can resolve sleep disturbance as quickly as possible.
Nighttime Shoulder Pain is a Real Pain
Having shoulder pain at any time of day can be unpleasant. People whose pain increases at nighttime experience a double-whammy: they cannot get comfortable so they cannot sleep. The lack of sleep caused by nighttime shoulder pain leads to low energy during the day, poor concentration, mood disruptions, and decreased pain tolerance. That last detail alone creates a vicious cycle of poor sleep and chronic pain.
There are several reasons why shoulder pain may occur primarily at night. Initially, it may pay to look at how much stress you are under. The body transitions into full relaxation during sleep, but chronic or heavy stress can inhibit this process. Additionally, pain may result from sleeping position or a bad mattress. Beyond these minor factors, we need to know if nighttime shoulder pain is stemming from a structural problem.
The shoulder joint may degrade over time simply due to aging. Pain may also result from poor posture or repetitive movements. Finally, it is possible that pain is associated with rotator cuff tendonitis, arthritis, or a tear. If nighttime shoulder pain has occurred for several months or can be related to a recent shoulder injury, diagnostic imaging and a comprehensive exam should be obtained.
At Advanced Orthopedics and Hand Surgery Institute, our objective is to rule out injury or determine the extent of rotator cuff tendonitis if it does exist. In some cases, it may be possible to resolve nighttime shoulder pain with non-surgical modalities such as stretching exercises, physical therapy, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. When surgery is necessary, it may be performed arthroscopically if the injury to the rotator cuff is small.