Woke Up With Shoulder Pain, What to Do Now?

Waking up with shoulder pain can be a frustrating and debilitating experience, affecting your daily activities and overall quality of life. Whether it’s a dull ache or a sharp, intense pain, shoulder discomfort can have various causes, ranging from minor strains to more serious underlying conditions. In this blog post, we’ll explore the potential reasons for waking up with shoulder pain and provide practical steps to help alleviate your discomfort and get you back on the road to recovery.

Common Causes of Waking Up With Shoulder Pain

There are several potential causes for waking up with shoulder pain, including:

Poor Sleeping Position

One of the most common culprits of shoulder pain upon waking is an improper sleeping position. Sleeping on your side with your arm positioned awkwardly or sleeping on your stomach with your head turned to the side can put unnecessary strain on your shoulder muscles and joints, leading to pain and discomfort.

Rotator Cuff Injuries

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that help stabilize the shoulder joint. Injuries or strains to the rotator cuff can cause significant pain, especially during movements or when trying to sleep in certain positions.


Bursitis is a condition that involves the inflammation of the bursa, which are small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints. Shoulder bursitis can cause swelling, stiffness, and pain, particularly when trying to move the affected shoulder.


Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can affect the shoulder joint, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. Waking up with shoulder pain can be a common symptom of these conditions.

What to Do When You Wake Up With Shoulder Pain

Steps to Take When Waking Up With Shoulder Pain

  1. Rest and apply ice: Take a break from activities that aggravate the pain and apply an ice pack to the affected area for 15-20 minutes several times a day to reduce inflammation.
  2. Take over-the-counter pain medication: Anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or naproxen can help alleviate pain and swelling.
  3. Perform gentle stretches and exercises: Simple stretching and range-of-motion exercises can help improve mobility and reduce stiffness.
  4. Adjust your sleeping position: Experiment with different sleeping positions and use pillows to support your shoulder and keep it in a neutral position.
  5. Seek professional help: If the pain persists or worsens, consult a physiotherapist or healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long does shoulder pain from sleeping typically last?
Shoulder pain from sleeping in an awkward position typically resolves within a few days to a week with proper rest and self-care. However, if the pain persists or worsens, it’s essential to seek medical attention.

Can sleeping with a pillow between the knees help with shoulder pain?
While a pillow between the knees can help alleviate pressure on the lower back and hips when sleeping on your side, it may not directly affect shoulder pain. It’s best to use pillows to support and maintain a neutral position for your shoulder.

Is it safe to exercise with shoulder pain?
It’s generally recommended to avoid strenuous exercises or activities that aggravate the shoulder pain. However, gentle stretches and low-impact exercises may be beneficial under the guidance of a physiotherapist or healthcare professional.

Can poor posture contribute to waking up with shoulder pain?
Yes, poor posture throughout the day can strain the shoulder muscles and joints, potentially leading to pain and discomfort when waking up in the morning.

About the Author

This blog post was written by the experienced team at our Burlington Physiotherapy clinic. With years of expertise in physiotherapy and rehabilitation, PhysioLinks Rehab specializes in providing comprehensive treatment plans and personalized care to help individuals overcome various musculoskeletal conditions, including shoulder pain. Their team of highly trained physiotherapists and healthcare professionals is dedicated to helping patients regain their mobility, reduce pain, and improve their overall quality of life.

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