Shoulder pain from sleeping: This is what your body might be trying to tell you

Though shoulder pain after sleeping is generally thought to be caused by bad sleeping position, its real underlying causes might be something way more serious.

Shoulder pain from sleeping
© Karolina Grabowska
Shoulder pain from sleeping

Its important to take note of the subtle and not-so-subtle signs that something might not be right with your body. For example, many people might have the tendency to brush off things such as watery eyes or body odour as minor inconveniences, but these symptoms could be subtly indicating that bigger issues are at play with your body.

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Similarly, if you have been waking up with shoulder pain from sleeping, the reason for it might be way more than just your sleeping position. As per Livestrong, here are some of the reasons why you might be experiencing pain in your shoulder after getting up from bed.

Sleeping position

The first, and most obvious guess for most people for waking up with painful shoulders, is of course, a bad sleeping position. However, there is a catch here: in many cases, it is not the position itself which might cause the pain, but the added pressure caused by the sleeping position on a pre-existing injury.

These injuries could be caused either due to lifestyle reasons, such as the nature of your job or sports etc. and in some cases, it might be due to degenerative conditions or ageing.

In some cases, prolonged shoulder pain from sleeping might necessitate physical therapy or even surgery Ryutaro Tsukata

Rotator cuff injury

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons surrounding your shoulder joint. These muscles keep your upper arm bone firmly within the shallow socket of the shoulder. Injuries to rotator cuff muscles are quite common, and in fact, chances of injuries become more likely as you start to age.

A rotator cuff injury causes a dull ache in the shoulder and it worsens at night. This can not only cause arm weakness, but of course, also disturb sleep.

It can be fixed using exercise and physical therapy, but in some cases, people might even need surgery.


Bursitis is caused by the inflammation of a bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac that works as a cushion to reduce friction between tissues of the body. It is located in the shoulder, elbow and hip. An injury to the bursa in the shoulders can lead the area to be swollen, feel stiff, and experience dull ache, which hurts more if you try to move or press the area.

Frozen shoulder

This is a painful condition which can make it hard to move the shoulders. Frozen shoulder is also called adhesive capsulitis, and it happens when the capsule of connective tissue that encloses the shoulder joint starts to thicken and tighten.

As per Livestrong, frozen shoulder generally gets better on its own within 18 months. However, if it leads you to feeling pain and discomfort, medical help and exercise can help ease pain. In case you experience frozen shoulder long term, doctors might recommend surgery.

Shoulder Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis happens more often in case of older people. It happens when the cartilage and other tissues within the joint break down or change in their structure, causing chronic pain, tenderness, sensitivity as well as loss of flexibility in the joints.

Osteoarthritis in the shoulders could cause you to suffer from pain in the area. It is a degenerative condition that gradually worsens over time. Physical therapy and medical help can aid in alleviating and managing pain.

Read more:

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Sources used:

Livestrong: 'Shoulder Pain From Sleeping? Here’s What Your Body’s Trying to Tell You'

Sudden chest pain: Here's what your body might be trying to tell you Sudden chest pain: Here's what your body might be trying to tell you