Sleep is essential to our overall health, and when it eludes you, no matter what the circumstances, it can make whatever ails you even worse.  

Our bodies use sleep to regulate, heal, and revitalize cells so you can start your next day refreshed.  But when there is a sudden onset of pain in your shoulder, it can deter you from getting that much needed good night’s rest.  

How can this pain be managed?  There are many ways to go about this issue, but first and foremost, the priority is to understand the source of the pain.

What Type of Shoulder Pain Do You Have?

When determining any physical issue that arises in your body, the number one on the list of to do’s is to figure out what type of pain you are suffering from.  The varying types of pain you can feel will help narrow down what could possibly be ailing you and preventing sleep from occurring.  

Why your shoulder seems to be in more pain during the night is a result of the inflammation of the joints which can flare up when the area is compressed, like when you are laying on your side during bedtime.  

There are three main injuries that cause these flare-ups, which share very similar symptoms in terms of what type of pain can be felt.  Not to say that there aren’t other forms of injury that can feel like an issue at night, but these are the top likely culprits that cause the most issues, as they share the commonality of their abilities to swell up the shoulder joints.     

  • Torn Rotator Cuff: One of the more common shoulder injuries, this is typically denoted by swelling and pain in the shoulder.  The rotator cuff stabilizes the shoulder and enables smooth movement of the joint, and can be damaged by strenuous lifting or falling.  
  • Bursitis: The bursa is a sac of fluid around the joint, acting as a cushion between the bones.  When there is inflammation around this area, it is known as bursitis and can be painful when the swelling occurs.  The cycle of pain can be continuous but especially flare up during the night as laying on the injured shoulder compresses the area, causing an intensity of pain.  
  • Tendonitis: Another form of inflammation, tendonitis is caused by repetitive motion to the same area where friction can occur.  The tendons that attach muscle to bone become inflamed and irritated, causing pain and stiffness in the area.  Why would your shoulder pain increase during the night with this ailment?  It likely has to do with the positioning of the shoulder when you are lying on your side, which could decrease the flow of blood to the area, causing discomfort.  

Remedies to Manage the Pain

Once you have determined which is the type of injury you are suffering from, it’s best to pick a remedy that will be specifically tailored for that ailment so that you can hopefully start feeling good enough to sleep and allow your body to heal on its own as much as possible.  

  • Heat Treatment: Adding heat to an ailment of your shoulder can work to give you some relief at night.  A heat pack will work to circulate blood flow to the affected shoulder area and help relax contracted muscles. 
  • Cold Treatment:  Much like a heat pack, an ice pack can likewise work to help provide some relief to the affected shoulder.  It will reduce swelling of an injury as well as provide a numbing effect to provide one of the most instant remedies possible.  The only main issue is that, depending on the severity of your pain, this solution proves to be a fairly temporary one and will likely need to be combined with other remedies for a long-standing effect.  But, for the immediate, instantaneous remedy, it can do the trick.  
  • Pain Relief Ointment/Gels/Formulas: Topical pain products can provide instant relief by applying the topical formula to the exact localized area where there is discomfort, and absorption and effect is fairly rapid. Pain relief products with menthol can provide a cooling effect to bring a feeling of relief, and pain relief products with soothing ingredients like trolamine salicylate, turmeric, and aloe can work to temporarily alleviate the aches and pains of an irritated shoulder. Massage the affected area with a good circular motion to promote circulation and allow the product to do its work! 
  • Reduce Pressure: Keep the pressure off of the injured shoulder by rotating positions in bed or simply switching to laying on your other side.  Allow the blood to flow properly and don’t put too much pressure on the hurt side. Shifting your body to allow this to occur is something that can easily be done to provide some relief to your aching shoulder. Avoid any strain to the affected shoulder as much as possible in order to help offset the pain and hopefully allow the area to heal and receive better circulation.     
  • Stretching: While stretching can seem like a counter-intuitive act, slowly moving the muscles around the problem area can allow for the blood to circulate in the area, thus possibly helping to relieve some of the swelling.  In a general sense, incorporating stretching before and after any exercise will ease the joints and reduce the likelihood of injury to begin with.  When stiffness or pain occurs, one of the first things to attempt is stretching it out to determine the severity and depth of the pain.  It may not completely relieve pain, but incorporated with some of the other methods listed, can definitely work well as a supplemental aid to providing the relief you seek.        
  • Posture: Improving your posture can do a world of good for your joints in general.  When sitting for long periods of time in a manner that adds more unnecessary weight or strain, your joints such as your shoulders can get achy and feel stiff from the lack of movement.  Correcting the way you sit to distribute the body weight in a more even manner will undoubtedly reveal positive change, and is also better for long term pain management.     

Long Term Care

It can often feel like the easiest way to manage any pain, but especially joint or muscle pain is by reaching for that bottle of aspirin or ibuprofen.  But, while they may do the trick to relieve your pain for the immediate time, it is exactly what it states on the bottle, temporary relief of pain.  

The biggest issue has to do with side effects when taking any form of medication, whether it be over the counter or prescription based.  As they are ingested into your system, the relief can also take a bit of time as the active ingredients need to transmit that signal via your bloodstream to your brain and then to whatever part of your body is in need of relief.  

The easiest and safest way to treat shoulder pain on a recurring basis is to pinpoint the exact location of your discomfort to provide targeted relief.  Not only do you know that it reaches the exact spot of your pain, but can safely provide relief on a much quicker basis. 

Depending on what other types of management you include stretching or massage, this can possibly reduce future pain from occurring.  Reducing straining activities such as heavy lifting will also help to ensure additional injury will not happen if there is an injury currently present.  As much strenuous activity that can be avoided will allow the shoulder to heal and hopefully not incur more longstanding damage, which may require more aggressive or invasive treatments.  

Taking the time and effort to manage your pain for the long term is the most sustainable way to ensure that you can control how your body will react.    

As always, if the pain becomes unbearable, significantly affects your day-to-day life, or if it persists for a couple weeks, it’s worth getting it checked out by a doctor to make sure there isn’t anything going on that needs a more managed treatment plan. 

In Closing

Shoulder pain, though it can be incredibly uncomfortable and can deprive you of sleep if the pain does not subside, is treatable.  

To look at the glass half full, compared to something like a knee injury that can share very similar symptomatic characteristics, shoulder pain can be managed and generally does not affect your ability to be mobile.  Should you happen to fall victim to one of the above three causes of this pain, the safest way to ensure you can relieve the discomfort is by finding the cause of your pain and then taking the actions necessary to help it heal.  

The good news is that even without the need for medical or even pharmaceutical assistance, there are plenty of other remedies that can work to temporarily alleviate your pain.  You don’t have to endure the pain overnight each and every evening, there are plenty of tactics to try should you find yourself in a predicament where the onset of pain was not expected.