Causes and Symptoms of Shoulder Pain: Shoulder Pain When Sleeping and More

Causes and Symptoms of Shoulder Pain

Are you having difficulty reaching for something? Do you feel uncomfortable? Does it feel like you are carrying heavy load on your shoulder? You might be suffering from shoulder pain. It comes in varying pain levels – tolerable, disturbing, or extreme.

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There is shoulder pain when sleeping, shoulder pain when reaching for something, and others. What are the root causes of each kind of shoulder pain?

This article gives an overview about shoulder pain, its possible causes, and initial treatments that can be applied.

Shoulder pain when sleeping

Shoulder pain at night is usually a type of rotator cuff problem. There is no clear reason for it. It is not usual for the sufferer to be awakened from sleep because of the shoulder pain. Otherwise, it could be caused by more serious condition which should be diagnosed by the doctor.

Constant pain

The constant pain is experienced any time of the day. It can be bothersome especially when doing activities such as reaching or throwing. Constant shoulder pain can be caused by frozen shoulder and the rotator cuff tendonitis and tears are usually affected.

Causes of shoulder pain

Each shoulder pain varies according to the cause and pain level. Therefore, the treatment varies too. The first step to manage shoulder pain is to identify and understand its root cause.

Here are the most common causes of shoulder pain:

  • Rotator cuff tendonitis. This is the most common diagnosis in patients who experience shoulder pain.
  • Rotator cuff tear. This cause is more serious because it requires surgery for the treatment. It happens when the tendons of the rotator cuff is separated from the bones.
  • Shoulder separation. Shoulder separation is also called the AC separation. It occurs when the acromioclavicular (AC) joint is disrupted or when the ligament that holds the AC joint in injured.
  • Frozen shoulder. Also called the adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder is a common condition that leads to stiff joints. It can be treated by physical therapy and stretching. It can also cause uncomfortable sleeping, driving, or dressing. Or worst, frozen shoulder can cause inability to move at all.

Initial treatment for shoulder pain

The treating for shoulder pain varies according to the root cause and pain level. So before identifying the appropriate treatment that you should apply to the pain, it is important to understand its cause first. For more reliable diagnosis, seek professional advice before applying or doing any treatment.

Here are some immediate treatments to address shoulder pain, whether it’s the shoulder pain when sleeping or when stretching or reaching for something:

Cold or hot compress

Cold compress and hot compress are commonly applied to the affected area. Which one is the right one to use? The cold compress is usually applied when treating inflammation, while the hot compress is used to relieve or relax the muscles. It is important to identify which one should be used and how long should it be applied.


For any pain condition, shoulder pain or pain in other body parts, the first thing to do is to rest the affected area to allow the pain to subside. Avoid carrying heavy bags and other loads and avoid moving the shoulder. However, it is important to note that prolonged immobilization of the shoulder joints can lead to frozen shoulder.

Physical therapy

Shoulder pain and other orthopedic conditions are usually addressed by physical therapy. It includes exercises and sometimes the use of equipment to help the affected area increase its strength, reduce pain, regain mobility, etc.


Another initial treatment for shoulder pain is stretching the muscles and tendons around the joint. It should be a habit and should follow specific suggestions by physical therapists.

Good posture

Sometimes, shoulder pain is just caused by poor posture. Observe proper posture throughout the day to improve the condition of the shoulder pain.

Anti inflammatory drugs

For patients who suffer acute shoulder pain that prevent them from doing daily tasks, anti inflammatory medications can be taken. They are prescribed by doctors especially for shoulder pains caused by bursitis, arthritis, and tendonitis.

For more serious condition such as the rotator cuff tear, surgery is the most necessary treatment to fully correct and recover the muscles and joints. It is advisable to seek professional medical help especially when the shoulder pain is extreme or awakes you at night.

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