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Home > Why Am I Waking Up With Sore Shoulders?

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Why Am I Waking Up With Sore Shoulders?


Last Updated on April 1, 2024

The experience of shoulder pain after waking up in the morning is a prevalent grievance shared by individuals across diverse age groups and backgrounds. Waking up with sore shoulders can indeed be an uncomfortable and vexing ordeal. As a matter of fact, it can cast a shadow over your entire day, rendering you stiff, fatigued, and constrained in your range of motion. Well, we are here to help! In this comprehensive article, we will embark on a journey to explore the myriad factors that culminate in the unwelcome sensation of morning shoulder pain. We will diligently investaigate its underlying causes and, perhaps most importantly, furnish you with a repertoire of strategies aimed at managing and alleviating this discomfort.  

What Causes Morning Shoulder Pain? 

Morning shoulder pain can be a perplexing and discomforting phenomenon, often accompanied by neck and shoulder pain after waking up. To effectively address this issue, it’s crucial to look into the various factors that can contribute to it. Understanding the root causes is the first step in finding lasting solutions to alleviate morning shoulder pain. 

Is Your Sleep Position to Blame? 

Morning shoulder pain is frequently influenced by your sleep position. The manner in which you sleep plays a pivotal role in determining whether you’ll wake up feeling refreshed or plagued by discomfort. One common sleep position, side sleeping, can be both a comfort and a contributor to shoulder pain. When you sleep on your side with your arm positioned beneath your pillow and your head resting on it, you may inadvertently subject your shoulder joints and surrounding muscles to undue pressure. Over time, this pressure can lead to shoulder blade pain or stiffness upon waking. It’s essential to be mindful of your sleep posture and understand its potential impact on your shoulder health. 

Other Causes 

While sleep position undeniably plays a significant role in the development of morning shoulder pain, it is imperative to acknowledge that a multitude of other factors can also contribute to this discomfort. Understanding these additional causes is crucial for a comprehensive assessment of morning shoulder pain and finding effective solutions. 

Muscle Tension and Stress 

Stress and tension, whether from daily life or specific circumstances, can manifest physically in various ways, including muscle tightness and discomfort. The neck and shoulder area is a common location for this tension to concentrate, leading to morning soreness. Hence, managing stress through relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga can help alleviate this type of pain. Engaging in regular physical activity, such as stretching and strengthening exercises, can also be beneficial in reducing muscle tension. 

shoulder pain

Joint and Rotator Cuff Issues 

Issues involving the shoulder joint and rotator cuff represent a significant category of factors contributing to the onset of morning shoulder pain. Among these, conditions like shoulder impingement, tendinitis, and frozen shoulder stand out as common culprits. Shoulder impingement occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff become pinched or compressed between the bones of the shoulder, resulting in inflammation and pain. This condition often develops gradually and can worsen over time, leading to persistent discomfort upon waking. Tendinitis, on the other hand, entails inflammation of the tendons in the shoulder, which can arise due to overuse, injury, or other factors. This inflammation can result in morning shoulder pain, especially if the affected tendons are strained during sleep. Additionally, frozen shoulder, clinically referred to as adhesive capsulitis, is characterised by a gradual stiffening and tightening of the shoulder joint capsule. As the condition progresses, it limits the range of motion and induces pain, often felt more intensely upon waking. 

Medical Conditions 

In certain cases, underlying medical conditions can be the root cause of morning shoulder pain. Conditions such as arthritis, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, can lead to joint inflammation and pain that is more pronounced in the morning. This increased discomfort upon waking is often referred to as “morning stiffness.” 

If you suspect an underlying medical condition as the source of your morning shoulder pain, it’s imperative to seek professional medical advice. A healthcare provider can conduct necessary assessments, such as imaging studies and blood tests, to diagnose the specific condition and recommend appropriate treatment options, which may include medication, physical therapy, or lifestyle modifications. 

How to Reduce Shoulder Pain from Sleeping on Your Side? 

Waking up with shoulder pain after a night of side sleeping can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience. However, there are practical strategies and adjustments you can make to alleviate discomfort and prevent it from recurring.These methods may include you to: 

Change Your Pillow 

The choice of pillow is a critical factor in preventing morning shoulder pain. An unsuitable pillow can contribute to neck and shoulder discomfort. You need to look for a pillow that provides adequate support for your head and neck, ensuring they remain in proper alignment with your spine. Memory foam or contour pillows are often recommended for their ability to maintain correct spinal alignment, which can significantly reduce the risk of waking up with shoulder pain. These pillows conform to the natural curves of your neck and shoulders, offering the necessary support to minimise strain and discomfort. 

Put Your Arms Down 

Shoulder pain in the morning may be influenced by how your arms are positioned as you sleep. It’s time to think about changing if you frequently sleep with your arm tucked under your pillow. Try sleeping with your arm comfortably by your side instead as this adjustment reduces the pressure on your shoulder joint, which can significantly decrease the risk of waking up with shoulder pain. By allowing your shoulder to rest naturally, you can alleviate stress on the joint and its surrounding structures. 

Change Your Mattress 

Your mattress’s firmness and quality are essential components in getting a good night’s sleep. Your body may not receive the proper support from an outdated or sagging mattress, which can cause discomfort and agony, especially in the shoulders. To address this issue, consider investing in a mattress that suits your body type and sleep preferences. A mattress that offers adequate support can alleviate pressure points and reduce the likelihood of morning shoulder pain. o 

Overall, evaluating and adjusting your pillow, arm positioning, and mattress collectively contribute to a more restful night’s sleep, ultimately minimising the risk of waking up with shoulder discomfort. 

How Can You Manage Morning Shoulder Discomfort? 

Preventing and managing morning shoulder discomfort requires a multifaceted approach that goes beyond adjusting your sleep position and sleep environment. Here are additional measures and strategies you can implement to effectively manage and prevent shoulder pain: 

Stay Active 

Regular physical activity is a key component of shoulder health and can significantly reduce the risk of morning shoulder pain. Engaging in exercises that specifically target the muscles of the shoulders and upper back can enhance the stability and strength of these areas, providing better support for your shoulder joints. Nevertheless, incorporating shoulder-focused exercises into your fitness routine can help prevent muscle imbalances and alleviate discomfort. Consider exercises like shoulder presses, lateral raises, and rows to strengthen the muscles surrounding your shoulder joints. Gradually increasing the intensity and frequency of these exercises can contribute to improved shoulder function and reduced morning pain. 

Improve Your Posture 

Maintaining proper posture throughout the day is crucial for preventing shoulder pain, whether it occurs in the morning or at any other time. Be mindful of your posture when sitting and standing, ensuring that your shoulders are relaxed and your spine is properly aligned. Avoid slouching or hunching forward, as this can strain the muscles and ligaments in the shoulders and upper back. Ergonomic adjustments to your workspace, if you spend extended hours at a desk, can also be beneficial. Utilise ergonomic chairs, keyboard trays, and monitor stands to promote a neutral posture and minimise the risk of shoulder discomfort. 

Minimally Invasive Treatments 

For individuals dealing with chronic or persistent morning shoulder pain, there are minimally invasive treatment options available that can provide relief and improve overall shoulder function. Two such treatments are Coreflex and Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy: 


Comprising a local anesthetic, anti-inflammatory, and muscle relaxant, Coreflex injections serve as an effective solution for the morning discomfort associated with shoulder pain. When directly applied to the affected area, these injections rapidly mitigate inflammation, delivering essential relief and comfort when you awaken with sore shoulders. 

Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy 

PRP therapy utilises your body’s own platelets, extracted from a small blood sample, to promote healing and reduce inflammation in the shoulder joint. PRP injections are administered directly into the affected area, stimulating tissue repair and helping to alleviate pain. 

Both Coreflex and PRP therapy are minimally invasive and can be considered for individuals experiencing persistent morning shoulder discomfort. However, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider or a physiotherapist to determine the most appropriate treatment approach based on your specific condition and needs. 

When to Ask for Help? 

While lifestyle changes and self-care strategies can effectively manage many cases of morning shoulder pain, there are specific situations that necessitate professional help. Recognising the appropriate time to seek assistance is crucial for addressing underlying issues and receiving appropriate treatment. Here are key indicators of when professional help should be sought for morning shoulder pain: 

Persistent and Severe Pain 

When morning shoulder pain persists despite lifestyle adjustments and self-care efforts, and when the discomfort significantly impacts daily activities and quality of life, consulting a healthcare provider is advisable. 

Loss of Shoulder Mobility 

If you notice a significant decrease in your shoulder’s range of motion, such as difficulty raising your arm or performing routine tasks due to pain and stiffness, it’s a clear indication that professional evaluation is necessary. 

Signs of Infection or Inflammation 

Immediate medical attention is required if you observe signs of infection or inflammation in the shoulder area, including redness, warmth, swelling, or fever. These symptoms could indicate an underlying infection or a more serious medical condition. 

Numbness or Tingling 

In cases where morning shoulder pain is accompanied by numbness or tingling sensations in your arm or hand, it may suggest nerve involvement. Consulting a healthcare provider can help assess the extent of nerve compression or injury and recommend appropriate treatment. 

Previous Shoulder Injuries or Surgeries 

If you have a history of shoulder injuries, surgeries, or ongoing shoulder issues, and your morning pain is related to these factors, consulting a Pain Doctor is advisable to assess the situation and determine the best course of action. 

In these situations, seeking professional medical advice is essential to accurately identify the root cause of your morning shoulder pain. A healthcare provider can recommend and administer appropriate diagnostic tests, provide tailored treatment options, and guide you toward the most effective interventions, which may include physical therapy, medications, or, in some cases, surgical procedures. Timely intervention is crucial to address underlying issues, alleviate pain, and improve shoulder function, ensuring a better quality of life. 


Morning shoulder pain can disrupt your daily life and affect your overall well-being. Understanding the causes and risk factors is the first step in finding relief. By making adjustments to your sleep position, pillow, and mattress, along with adopting a proactive approach to shoulder health through exercise and posture improvement, you can reduce the likelihood of waking up with sore shoulders. If pain persists or is accompanied by concerning symptoms, seeking professional medical advice is crucial to identify and address any underlying issues. Remember that managing morning shoulder pain is not just about finding short-term relief; it’s about promoting long-term shoulder health and overall quality of life. 

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    Categories: Shoulder Pain
    Shoulder Pain

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