5 Reasons Why You Woke Up With Shoulder Pain

woke up with shoulder pain

One day, you feel absolutely fine. No pain whatsoever, and you complete all your daily activities as you usually do. Then, you woke up with shoulder pain. Brushing your teeth, combing your hair, lifting objects, and even getting dressed elicits severe pain. With little to no history of shoulder pain, you’re likely wondering what exactly happened to cause such discomfort. The trust is that it’s probably a result of sleeping the wrong way.

If you woke up with shoulder pain, several different explanations exist. At The Pain Relief Center in Plano, TX, we perform full shoulder examinations on our patients. This helps to best determine the source of your pain, as well as how to treat it. We provide personalized and dedicated treatment plans that span from your diagnosis to the end of your treatment. Fortunately, random shoulder pain will no longer be random. With a plan that fits your specific needs, we will strive to provide the relief you deserve. To schedule an appointment with one of our dedicated professionals, please call 214-709-1904 today.

Why Do My Shoulders Hurt When I Wake Up?

Those with no previous history of shoulder problems or pain might want to examine their sleeping position. Sometimes, side sleepers unintentionally cause their own shoulder pain. If a side sleeper woke up with shoulder pain, it is likely that their sleeping position ended up pinching their rotator cuff tendons or shoulder bursae. Doing this for a short period of time generally does not produce painful sensations. However, after lying in this position for several hours while sleeping, it triggers an inflammatory response from the shoulder joint. This inflammation of the pinched tendon or bursae results in the pain when you wake up.

Luckily, most people see their pain and symptoms decrease within 48 hours after waking up with that pain. However, some still experience persistent or chronic shoulder pain. Unfortunately in these cases, it is unlikely that the sleeping position was the singular cause of the pain. We recommend that you consult with a specialist at our pain management clinic Dallas TX location to discover the source of your discomfort.

How to Prevent Shoulder Pain from Side Sleeping?

For side sleepers, it is possible to prevent or alleviate this pain. We understand that almost everyone has a preferred sleeping position. While it is sometimes difficult to change the way you sleep, sometimes it is the only way to achieve relief from your pain.

Below, we list two good rules of thumb to follow if you prefer sleeping on your side:

  1. Often, sleeping directly on your upper arm results in discomfort. This is due to the constant pressure and compression between the humerus and the cup of your shoulder. Turning slightly either to the front or the back reduces this compression, thus lessening your chances of waking up with pain or discomfort.
  2. Sleeping with your elbow closer to the headboard than your shoulder also increases the chance of waking up in pain. In this position, the arm and the muscles are at rest while you sleep. The rotator cuff tendons and shoulder bursae become pinched between the upper arm bone and the cup of the shoulder. Staying in this position results in pain, and sometimes causes damage to the tendons or bursa. Adjust your position accordingly.

How to Relieve Side Sleeper Shoulder Pain?

Fear not, for there are solutions for side sleeper shoulder pain. Because it is so common, we have a number of different recommendations for preventing or alleviating shoulder pain:

Change sleeping positions

Sleeping in the same position each night often causes irritation for side sleepers. In order to take the pressure off your affected shoulder, try swapping sides. Simply roll over to the other shoulder, or try a different position altogether. Sleeping on your back provides the most support for your spine, and sleeping on your stomach keeps the pressure off of your shoulders. Remember, if one shoulder hurts already, do not continue to sleep on it.

Perform shoulder stretches and exercises

For those regularly experiencing shoulder pain, we recommend certain stretches and exercises to strengthen your shoulder joint:

  • To improve your range of motion, stand up straight, then lean forward, keeping your back straight. Rest one arm on a steady surface, such as a table. Let the affected arm hang down toward the floor, and draw circles with it. Begin with small circles, progressing to larger circles. Repeat this a few times throughout the day.
  • To strengthen your rotator cuff, you’ll need a resistance band. Loop one end of the band around the knob of a closed door. With the affected arm, grab the other end of the band with your hand. Hold the elbow at a 90-degree angle, and pull the band across your stomach. Repeat 10 times before switching sides.
  • To strengthen the upper extremities, find a light weight. Lie on your right side, holding the weight in your left hand. Raise the forearm as you keep the elbow near your side. Repeat, and then switch sides.

Apply heat and ice

Both options help to ease stiff joint muscles and reduce inflammation.

Take pain medication

Anti-inflammatory medicines help greatly reduce shoulder pain and discomfort.

What Is the Best Way to Sleep if Your Shoulder Hurts?

Each person prefers different sleeping positions. Thus, no one position is the “best” for shoulder pain. There are, however, a number of options for those looking to reduce or prevent their shoulder pain in the morning.

We list these below:

  • Sleep on your back with a small pillow under your knees.
  • Sleep on your stomach.
  • With added shoulder support, sleep on your back. Place a small pillow between your shoulder blades.
  • Reduce neck and shoulder stress at night by using a flat pillow at night.
  • Lastly, if all else fails, try sleeping at an incline. Do this by sleeping in a recliner or on an adjustable bed.

5 Other Reasons You Woke Up With Shoulder Pain

Frozen Shoulder

Also called adhesive capsulitis, this condition causes stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. The symptoms begin gradually, and tend to worsen over time.

Scapular Dyskinesis

This is an alteration or deviation of the resting or active positions of the scapula. It is most noticeable during shoulder movement. In some cases, it increases the risk of injury.

Thoracic Spine Stiffness

Having stiffness in the thoracic spine often results in neck pain, lower back pain, and reduced shoulder mobility.

Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

This affects the muscles and tendons which work together to move your shoulder joint. Tendinitis is the inflammation or irritation of the tendons in the area.

Referred Pain

This occurs when pain in one part of the body results in pain in a completely different part of the body. Because the nerves of your body are all connected, this sometimes results from certain conditions or injuries.

Contact The Plano Shoulder Pain Specialists at Pain Relief Center

Persistent or chronic pain is difficult to live with. With no previous injuries or conditions and no idea why you woke up with shoulder pain, completing ordinary tasks can be frustrating. Luckily, a Plano pain management specialist at The Pain Relief Center will work tirelessly to put you on the path to relief and recovery. We focus heavily on finding the source of your pain and then formulating the right treatment plan for your situation. To schedule an appointment with an experienced pain management professional, please call 214-709-1904 today.


The most critical step on the path to recovery is finding a pain management doctor who can address your pain management needs successfully. The Pain Relief Center and its five specialized institutes are dedicated to meeting any and all of a patient’s needs. Located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Dr. Rodriguez and his friendly staff will help you along the path to recovery.

Our new center in Dallas is part of a nationwide development by Pain Relief Centers, geared to providing individualized and comprehensive healing and pain management services with unprecedented levels of compassion, care, and comfort for each patient.

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