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What to Do When Shoulder Pain Disrupts Sleep

Your shoulder is a complex body part, composed of multiple joints, muscles, and tendons. So many moving parts means your shoulder is vulnerable to different conditions that cause pain. 

Shoulder pain affects up to 70% of all American adults at some point in their lifetime and can make everyday tasks a challenge. Unfortunately, shoulder pain often flares up at night, interrupting your sleep. 

If you’re experiencing nighttime shoulder pain, the expert providers at Ortho 1 Medical Group, with offices in San Diego, Chula Vista, Coronado, and La Jolla, California, can help. 

Our team specializes in diagnosing and treating many shoulder conditions that contribute to shoulder pain that interrupts sleep. 

Keep reading to learn about some common causes of nighttime shoulder pain and what to do when shoulder pain disrupts your sleep.   

Why does my shoulder hurt at night?

Shoulder pain can have many causes; however, when shoulder pain worsens at night, there are several conditions that are most commonly the root cause:

Shoulder bursitis 

Shoulder bursitis is a condition that develops when the bursa, the fluid-filled sacs that cushion the different joints in the shoulder, become inflamed. The inflammation creates pain and discomfort, and since inflammation increases when your body is at rest, it can become worse at night. 

Bursitis pain can range from dull and achy to sharp and hot. It can also become worse when you lie on your shoulder or change sleeping positions.

Shoulder arthritis

Osteoarthritis in the shoulder usually develops from wear-and-tear of the cartilage that protects the bones from rubbing against each other. When this happens, bones in the shoulder can rub against each other, causing pain and inflammation. 

Nighttime pain is common with shoulder arthritis. The location and characteristics of the pain depend on which of the joints in the shoulder is affected, and may include pain on the side or back of the shoulder, pain on the top of the shoulder, and pain that can radiate to the neck. 

Rotator cuff injuries

Your rotator cuff is made up of four muscles that become tendons as they approach the shoulder blade. They come together and connect your upper arm bone to your shoulder, allowing you to move your arm and shoulder and providing stability to the joints. 

Rotator cuff injuries range in severity but often involve a tear in these tendons, which wear down over time or with excessive use. You can also damage your rotator cuff if you fall, lift a heavy object, or experience a collision that jars your shoulder or arm. 

The inflammation and swelling associated with a rotator cuff injury can be worse at night, disturbing your sleep. Other symptoms may include difficulty reaching overhead or behind your back, arm weakness, and cracking or snapping noises when moving your arm or shoulder.

Biceps tendinopathy

Two tendons connect your biceps, the large muscle in your upper arm, to your shoulder. These tendons can degenerate, either from repetitive motion or the aging process, become inflamed and irritated, or tear, causing biceps tendinopathy

Biceps tendinopathy can occur with other shoulder problems, like a rotator cuff injury or bursitis. Like other shoulder issues, the pain associated with biceps tendinopathy can affect your ability to sleep. 

What can I do at home for nighttime shoulder pain?

If your shoulder pain is mild to moderate or only occurs periodically, you can take steps at home to minimize the inflammation and pain, including:

If your shoulder pain doesn’t improve or continues to worsen, schedule an appointment with a provider who specializes in shoulder injuries and conditions. 

How can a shoulder specialist help ease nighttime shoulder pain?

At Ortho 1 Medical Group, our team of experts has the knowledge and experience necessary to accurately diagnose your condition so that you get the care you need. 

Your provider evaluates your medical history, current symptoms, and conducts a physical exam and other tests to uncover the root cause of your pain. 

Your personalized shoulder pain treatment plan depends on the underlying condition and may include lifestyle changes, activity modification, physical therapy, regenerative medicine therapies, and injection treatments, for example. 

In some cases, your provider may recommend surgery to diagnose and/or treat the condition causing your pain. Our providers use minimally invasive surgical techniques when possible to perform:

If shoulder pain is interrupting your sleep, don’t wait to schedule a consultation online or over the phone at the Ortho 1 Medical Group location in the San Diego area nearest you.

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