Open Accessibility Menu

Have Shoulder Pain that Keeps You Up at Night?

  • Category: Articles by Clinicians
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Steven C. Bast, MD, Board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon
Have Shoulder Pain that Keeps You Up at Night?

Shoulder pain is a common condition that can negatively impact your ability to perform activities of daily living. While it is certainly not exclusive to sports, it is quite common among athletes. The good news is that, when addressed early, it’s usually treatable with simple remedies like ice, stretching, and exercise.

One of the most common causes of shoulder pain is called “impingement syndrome.” Impingement syndrome can be the result of simple age-related wear and tear, or from repetitive overuse of the shoulder, such as pitching a baseball, swimming, or hitting a tennis ball. It is usually positional, with pain generated as you raise your elbow above your shoulder. This movement causes the rotator cuff to become impinged between the shoulder bones. When the rotator cuff becomes impinged, it gets swollen and inflamed, generating pain that usually appears at night while you are resting.

Shoulder pain from impingement syndrome often occurs while sleeping on your side. To help alleviate symptoms, try using a shoulder pillow to modify your current sleep position. If you don’t have one, you can also just place a pillow under your armpit while sleeping on your side.

Pain from impingement syndrome may also appear during physical activity such as a gym routine. Exercises such as bench press, push-ups, or latissimus pull-downs can easily aggravate impingement syndrome. Try substituting an exercise machine into your routine, doing chest flys, seated rows, and cable work instead of bench press, push-ups, and latissimus pull-downs. Always remember to keep your elbows in front of and below your shoulder during these exercises.

Fortunately, there are simple remedies to reduce pain from impingement syndrome, including ice, rest, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, if medically indicated. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons also recommends several useful strength and flexibility exercises to help with this common source of shoulder pain, including pendulums, crossover arm stretches, standing rows, and more.

If you have tried these modifications and continue to have shoulder pain, be aware that impingement syndrome can progress to a rotator cuff tear, which will require further evaluation by an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in the shoulder. Talk to your doctor about next steps, which may include physical therapy or surgery.

Don’t let a sports injury sideline your season. If you are an injured athlete, the Coliseum at Casa Colina offers a free sports clinic every Monday evening from 5 to 7 p.m. at our Pomona Outpatient Center. Overseen by Steven Bast, MD, program medical director and an orthopedic surgeon trained in sports medicine, the Coliseum welcomes injured athletes of all ages for medical screening of sports-related injuries. Call 909/596-7733, ext. 3500 or email for more info.