Why Does My Shoulder Hurt When I Wake Up?

Isn’t it frustrating to wake up feeling achy in your shoulder, especially when you’re hoping for a refreshed start to the day? You’re not alone in this. Many people, like you, are asking the same question, ‘Why does my shoulder hurt when I wake up?’

it’s not something you would expect to deal with every morning. It could be from doing the same movements over and over, getting older and your joints wearing down, or even just not sleeping in the best position.

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Reasons for Shoulder Pain in the Morning

One-sided shoulder pain often happens when you sleep in positions that put too much pressure on your shoulder. Two common positions like this are:

  • Sleeping on One Side
    When you sleep on your side, all the weight of your upper body rests on your shoulder joint. This puts pressure on the joint and the cushioning sacs around it, triggering inflammation and pain.
  • Arm Above the Head
    Sleeping with your arm up can also cause shoulder pain in the morning. When your arm is in this position for a long time, it can pinch the tendons and sacs in your shoulder, causing discomfort.

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How Do I Know If My Shoulder Pain Is Sleep-related?

If your shoulder feels stiff and achy only in the morning, it’s likely because of how you sleep. You might also notice:

  • A dull ache in your shoulder that gets worse when you move it
  • Trouble moving your arm or rotating your shoulder
  • Sharp pain when you lift your arm
  • Weakness in your shoulder, arm, or hand
  • Difficulty getting dressed, like putting on a shirt

What Else Does One-Sided Shoulder Pain Indicate?

If your shoulder still hurts in the morning, even after trying different sleep positions and stretches for a week or two, it could mean there’s an underlying problem with your shoulder.

For instance, sleeping on your side a lot might cause inflammation in your shoulder or worsen an existing injury. If changes in your sleep habits and stretching don’t help, it’s best to check it out. This morning’s pain might be a sign of:

  • Rotator cuff injury
  • Shoulder arthritis
  • Biceps tendonitis
  • Frozen shoulder
  • SLAP cartilage tear
  • Shoulder impingement
  • Referred neck pain.

Tips to Avoid Morning Shoulder Pain

It can be hard to switch up how you sleep once you’re snoozing, but it’s worth a try to ease your shoulder pain. Following are some tips:

  • Keep Your Arm Down
    Sleeping with your arm up near your head can cause shoulder pain. Try to keep your elbow below your shoulder when you sleep.
  • Get Off Your Arm
    Sleeping on your side with your arm underneath you can squish your shoulder joint and lead to pain. Try shifting your body a bit to free your arm from being squished.
  • Change Your Pillow
    If your pillow is too thick or thin, it can make your shoulder uncomfortable. Find one that comforts your head and neck without putting too much pressure on your shoulder.
  • Change Your Mattress
    Your mattress matters, too. You might sink in too much if it’s too soft and get stuck in an awkward position. If it’s too firm, it could put too much pressure on your shoulder.
  • Medical Help
    If none of the above methods work out, it’s time to seek medical assistance. If you see a shoulder specialist for your pain, they will make a plan to fix what’s causing it. This might involve treatments like:
  • Doing special exercises to make your shoulder stronger and more flexible
  • Taking medicine to ease the pain and swelling
  • Getting shots of medicine directly into your shoulder
  • Changing what you do during the day to avoid making your shoulder hurt more
  • Sometimes, having surgery to fix the problem for good.

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Patient Reviews

If this surgery is a little frightening, I understand. I interviewed doctors until I was satisfied that the one I chose was right for me. The pain and restriction of movement in my left shoulder was debilitating. Dr. Michael Cusick is totally committed to his trade. Complete total reverse shoulder replacement.

Kyle Powell

Don't get me wrong there was hiccups and waiting to have surgery seemed like forever but Dr. Cusick, his office staff and the hospital staff especially has been amazing. They went above and beyond to get my surgery approved so we wouldn't have to put it off longer. Dr. Cusick keeps a positive outlook even at times...

Kathy Zenker

Excellent surgeon. Great bedside manner. Had difficulty getting insurance paperwork filled out by office staff. Dr Cusick is awesome.

Gary Sevy

Final Thought

Do you struggle to get out of bed every morning and waste time wondering, “Why does my shoulder hurt when I wake up?” Try changing your sleep position. If it doesn’t work, visit Dr. Cusick at Michael C. Cusick, M.D.

Our shoulder specialist holds expertise in fractures/trauma, arthroscopy, and reconstruction, focusing on total joint replacement for the shoulder and elbow. Dial (713) 794-3599 for evaluation and treatment.


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