Shoulder Pain at Night
Night pain is a commonly encountered symptom for patients with shoulder injuries. Night pain is of great importance as it disturbs sleep and diminishes quality of life. Good quality sleep is of utmost importance to all of us! Without proper sleep we may be less active during the day, have a lower threshold for dealing with stress and injury, mental exhaustion and even delayed healing.
There are many conditions associated with night pain in your shoulder such as: bursitis, rotator cuff injuries, adhesive capsulitis [frozen shoulder], osteoarthritis and tendinosis to name a few. The cause of pain in these conditions can be divided into three major subtypes: movement related, compression and inflammatory
Movement Related Shoulder Pain
When we injure the muscles, ligaments or tendons in the shoulder it may cause a decreased range of motion, which means that certain movements become difficult and painful. Our unconscious bodies may toss and turn at night causing us to move our shoulder in a painful direction, waking us up and disturbing our sleep.
Compression and Shoulder Pain
Did you know that most of us are side sleepers? Often patients tell me that they usually sleep on the side of their injured shoulder. Changing our sleeping position can be very challenging, however laying on the same side as the injury can further aggravate your pain and discomfort. Making efforts to avoid compressing the injured tissues is also recommended as a way to speed up healing times.
Inflammation and Shoulder Pain
Some of my patients report that no matter how little or how much they move around, whether they sleep on their backs or sides, they just cannot relieve their shoulder pain at night! This night time aching that does not seem to be positionally related is the most perplexing and frustrating for patients. Researchers have found that this type of night pain is related to increased blood flow through the arteries of the shoulder suggesting an increase in inflammation.
So, What is the Best Way to Sleep When my Shoulder Hurts at Night?
The best option is always to consult a health care professional for a proper assessment, diagnosis and individualized treatment. Your health care provider may suggest some of the following depending on your specific type of shoulder injury and cause of the night pain:
1. Use a pillow to restrict your movement: If you are concerned about moving in a painful direction or rolling onto your shoulder, placing a pillow behind you may help prevent you from turning over.
2. Avoid sleeping on the side of the injury: Sleeping on your back, opposite side or even using a wedge pillow to elevate your shoulders may relieve some of your discomfort.
3. Perform your prescribed stretches and rehabilitation exercises. A health care professional can prescribe therapeutic exercise to relieve pain, stiffness and improve your range of motion.
4. Icing. Using ice or other anti-inflammatory measures before bed as prescribed can help delay the onset of pain and allow you to fall asleep faster.
5. Avoid any activities which are likely to worsen your pain. Knowing your limits and decreasing overall irritation will also aid in a faster recovery.
6. Practice good sleep hygiene. Try to go to bed at the same time every night. Reduce fluid intake and avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol before bed. Turn off electronics at least 30 minutes prior to bed.
If you’re experiencing persistent pain, restricted or painful motion, night pain or shoulder issues which are affecting your quality of life, please make sure to consult your chiropractor, doctor, massage therapist, physiotherapist or other trusted health care professional