Shoulder Pain from Sleeping

Do you know those times when you wake up in the morning and have pain in your shoulder? It happens to all of us! And shoulder pain from sleeping is actually pretty common and usually isn’t not a big deal. Most of the time, it goes away once we start moving around. It usually comes from sleeping on that shoulder for too long a one time but when we’re asleep, it’s hard to be aware of how long is too long!

But seriously, what can we do about shoulder pain – after arising? First, let’s take a look at some basic anatomy and later, we’ll consider remediation steps!

Shoulder Anatomy, Made Simple

The shoulder has a unique trait in the body! It has the most range of motion than any other joint!   Wait . . . what does that mean? It means that you can move your shoulder in more directions AND farther than other joints!  Coming soon: my Blog about the knee. When you read it you’ll know that the knee joint is NOT meant to move a lot.

But, back to shoulder anatomy, most of us know a person who has dislocated a shoulder. Not only is it common but it hurts! The shoulder joint is very flexible so we can . . . swing from tree-to tree . . .   Well – I won’t diverge into how we evolved, but here are some ideas about shoulder pain from sleeping!

Causes of Shoulder Pain from Sleeping

1] Compression: that means that the actual shoulder joint gets pushed into itself. That happens  naturally if we “side sleep” and lean on the shoulder. Usually, that’s not a problem . . . shoulders aren’t THAT fragile!

2] Weakness: if the shoulder is inherently weak, unstable or otherwise susceptible to complications, an injury can occur. Is it possible to have an injury from sleeping on your shoulder? It’s not likely but keep your awareness on it if the pain continues!

3] Overuse: if you are an athlete or if you work a lot with your shoulders, injuries can develop. Excessive and repetitive shoulder movements can be detrimental – especially if the shoulder action is overhead like tennis, pitching, swimming and even weight lifting. But, the soreness might only be from slight overuse – be a detective and see if you can figure it out! 

What To Do When You Wake Up

If you wake up from sleeping and your shoulder is sore and painful, ask yourself if this is just the norm for you. You may be used to a slight pain in the morning – then it goes away after a fairly short time as you start to move about. That’s no big deal

If your shoulder is sore or painful more than usual, you can stretch it out and see how it responds . . . if it gets better then maybe you did just sleep on it “the wrong way.” This soreness should greatly reduce in an hour or 2.

If the soreness doesn’t decrease in an hour or 2, take further steps to lessen the soreness. This could mean to use ice, doing more conservative stretching [be conservative so you don’t possibly make things worse] or the use of OTC pain meds as directed by a doctor. Music is another possibility – yes, that’s right! Music has been shown to reduce pain. . . . though I don’t recommend cranking it up!

Another possibility is to contact a massage professional for pain relief. Massage is well known to relax muscles and this might just be the ticket you need – loosening up tight muscles in the shoulder might be exactly the answer.  You can book a session with me and we will investigate what’s going on.

What if You have Shoulder Pain from Sleeping and . . .

It hurts a lot! What if this kind of pain is definitely different, if it’s a new kind of pain and if it just doesn’t “feel right?”  Now is the time to look deeper into the pain! If you’re sure it’s not from too much activity or some other type of influence, you should seek the advice of someone knowledgeable who you trust. It’s always good to play it safe – it may end up being something fully treatable but don’t take any chances.

And, if you are planning to be active on that day, using your shoulder a lot, it’s best to refrain and rest it. Resting an unknown ailment is one of THE best things we can do for it! You certainly want to be careful and not complicate the issue!  Here’s a good article about shoulder pain and symptoms:    Luckily, it’s not likely you have anything serious from shoulder pain from sleeping!

Massage for Shoulder Pain from Sleeping

Assuming the pain in your shoulder is not severe, massage and bodywork is actually a very good alternative and a good way to:

  1. relax the muscles of the shoulder
  2. release built-up tension and stress
  3. have the practitioner assess if your shoulder needs further attention
  4. help yourself to deal with a troublesome situation.

Again, I do therapeutic bodywork and specialize in shoulder pain [and hip imbalances].

Mild shoulder pain from sleeping can be addressed by a skilled practitioner – here’s my website again:  and  my online scheduler: