The shoulder is designed for movement and is not only one of the largest joints in the body but also one of the most complicated. The complex shoulder joint is referred to as a ball and socket joint and is formed where the upper bone of the arm (humerus) fits into the shoulder blade (scapula).
There are additional bones and structures within the shoulder, including the rotator cuff, a group of tendons and muscles that support the shoulder and permit its range of motion. The rotator cuff is protected by a sac of fluid, the bursa, which provides cushioning. Finally, the labrum is cartilage that protects the area where the ball part of the humerus fits.
The complexity of the shoulder causes it to be more susceptible to injury and damage, which are often accompanied by pain. Many times, shoulder pain comes at night, when the shoulder is immobilized and can even disturb sleep patterns. There are a variety of reasons why you may feel shoulder pain at night. Some of the most common reasons are:
Rotator Cuff Injury
Overuse of the shoulder, particularly the rotator cuff, can result in a painful injury like tendonitis or bursitis. Bursitis involves inflammation of the bursa, and tendonitis is when the tendons in the rotator cuff become inflamed. The pain from both conditions is felt toward the front and along the side of the shoulder. Stiffness may also occur.
While treatment involves resting, sleeping on the shoulder can cause more pain at night than during the day when the shoulder is active. Muscles in the shoulder relax when resting, and blood flow decreases, contributing to inflammation in the joint, which in turn contributes to shoulder pain. Also, lying directly on the shoulder compresses the joint. The immobility causes pain, as the compression further contributes to inflammation. When swelling increases, so does pain.
Speak with your healthcare professional regarding pain medications that can be taken before bedtime. Over-the-counter medications that are anti-inflammatory can also help.
Osteoarthritis is a painful, degenerative joint disease. It occurs when the cushioning properties within the joint (cartilage) break down. As cartilage wears away, the result is the painful scraping of bone on bone movement. You might expect some relief during the night, when the shoulder is immobile, and the bones aren’t scraping against one another. However, swelling may increase when the shoulder is totally still. The lack of movement can exacerbate the pain, since swelling is increased. Before bedtime, take an over-the-counter medication for pain. If medication doesn’t solve the problem, a doctor can suggest other treatments to help with the pain.
Adhesive capsulitis, also known as frozen shoulder, causes pain and stiffness within the shoulder joint. The pain is gradual and can last for as long as three years. Immobility is the primary characteristic of the condition. Generally, the immobility is related to another medical condition that prohibits the shoulder’s range of motion, such as a severely broken arm.
A definitive cause for frozen shoulder isn’t known, though inflammation is involved as it affects the connective tissue within the shoulder capsule. Frozen shoulder pain may increase during sleep hours, as the shoulder is even less mobile than it is during the daytime hours.
Talk to your doctor about pain medication and other treatments to help with your symptoms.
Shoulder Pain Relief in Austin, Texas
If you’re experiencing shoulder pain at night, contact All Star Orthopedics of Austin. Our experts can address your pain by devising a treatment plan following a diagnosis.
To request an appointment, call (512) 346-4933. You can also request an appointment online.