Addressing Shoulder Pain at Night: Causes and Treatment Options

Published on: April 16, 2024
Woman in bed woken up by a shoulder pain

Shoulder pain at night can be frustrating and disruptive, often leading to discomfort, difficulty sleeping and decreased quality of life. For many individuals, this pain may be accompanied by numbness in the fingers or worsened discomfort during nighttime hours.

In this article, we will explore the common causes of shoulder pain at night, discuss associated symptoms such as numbness in the fingers and provide effective treatment options to help alleviate nighttime shoulder discomfort.

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain at Night

The shoulder includes two different joints and a myriad of soft tissues that can be affected by injury, degenerative diseases and other health complications that can result in shoulder pain worse at night. Some common causes of shoulder pain at night include:

Rotator Cuff Injuries

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, providing stability and mobility. Injuries to the rotator cuff, such as strains, tears or tendonitis, can lead to shoulder pain, especially at night when lying on the affected side.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by stiffness, pain and limited range of motion in the shoulder joint. Individuals with frozen shoulder may experience increased pain and discomfort at night, making it difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position.

Shoulder Bursitis

Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursae, small fluid-filled sacs that cushion and lubricate the joints. When the bursae in the shoulder become inflamed, it can cause pain, tenderness and swelling, particularly when lying on the affected side.


Arthritis, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, can affect the shoulder joint, leading to pain, stiffness and reduced mobility. Individuals with arthritis may experience worsening shoulder pain at night, which can disrupt sleep and affect overall quality of life.


Tendonitis, or inflammation of the tendons, can occur in the shoulder due to overuse, injury or age-related changes. Nighttime shoulder pain may be exacerbated by tendonitis, particularly when lying on the affected side or engaging in activities that aggravate the condition.

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Symptoms of Shoulder Pain at Night with Numbness in Fingers

In addition to shoulder pain, individuals experiencing nighttime discomfort may also notice numbness or tingling sensations in the fingers. This symptom, known as paresthesia, can occur due to nerve compression or irritation in the shoulder region.

Numbness in the fingers may be more pronounced when lying on the affected side or during certain movements that exacerbate nerve compression. This can be accompanied by other symptoms of nerve compression, including radiating pain, tingling and burning down the affected arm and hand.

Treatment Options for Shoulder Pain at Night

Resting the affected shoulder and avoiding activities that aggravate pain can help reduce inflammation and promote healing. Immobilization techniques, such as wearing a sling or brace, may be recommended to limit movement and provide support to the shoulder joint.

Other treatments for shoulder pain at night may include:

  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy exercises and stretches can help improve shoulder strength, flexibility, and range of motion. A physical therapist can develop a personalized treatment plan to address specific symptoms and restore function to the shoulder joint.
  • Heat and Cold Therapy: Applying heat or cold therapy to the affected shoulder can help alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and promote relaxation of the muscles. Alternating between heat and cold packs or using a combination of both therapies can provide relief from nighttime shoulder discomfort.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help alleviate nighttime shoulder pain and improve sleep quality. In some cases, a healthcare professional may prescribe stronger medications or corticosteroid injections to manage severe pain and inflammation.
  • Ergonomic Adjustments: Making ergonomic adjustments to your sleeping environment, such as using a supportive pillow or mattress and maintaining proper posture while sleeping, can help reduce nighttime shoulder pain and discomfort. Sleeping on the unaffected side or using pillows to support the affected arm can also help alleviate pressure on the shoulder joint.
  • Corticosteroid Injections: In cases of severe or persistent shoulder pain, corticosteroid injections may be recommended to reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms. These injections are typically administered directly into the shoulder joint by a healthcare professional and can provide long-lasting relief for some individuals.
  • Surgical Intervention: In severe cases of shoulder pain that do not respond to conservative treatments, surgical intervention may be necessary to address underlying structural issues or repair damaged tissues. Common surgical procedures for shoulder pain include rotator cuff repair, shoulder arthroscopy and shoulder replacement surgery.

If you experience severe or persistent shoulder pain at night, especially if accompanied by numbness in the fingers or other concerning symptoms, it is important to seek prompt medical attention. A doctor can evaluate your symptoms, perform diagnostic tests if necessary, and recommend treatment.

A man in the bed woken up by a shoulder pain

Shoulder pain at night, especially with numbness in the fingers, can significantly impact your quality of life and disrupt your sleep. By understanding the common causes and treatment options for nighttime shoulder discomfort, you can take steps to alleviate pain, improve sleep, and restore function.

If you’re experiencing persistent or severe shoulder pain at night, do not hesitate to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and personalized treatment recommendations.

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