Shoulder pain at night?

Shoulder pain at night can be incredibly frustrating: from keeping you from falling asleep to waking you when you roll over. Pain in the shoulder whilst sleeping makes us think of one condition.. subacromial bursitis. Read to learn more..

Subacromial bursitis

The shoulder joint is extremely strong and mobile. These various functions are cracked into one joint, which is where our issue begins.

All the movement available in your shoulder requires lubrication. That’s where the bursae come in. The subacromial bursae is designed to make sure the movement in your shoulder doesn’t cause too much friction. This friction can be an injury-causing mechanism.

Bursitis occurs when direct trauma or repetitive strain causes the bursae to become inflamed and enlarged. This inflammation can be incredibly painful, even when you are not using the arm. This pain when the arm is not in use is what makes practitioners associate ‘shoulder pain at night’ with subacromial bursitis.

How can we help treat and manage shoulder pain at night:

Our practitioners at MPR Health have 2 main priorities;

  1. get the pain under control,

  2. treat the underlying cause(s).

Pain is often the first priority when treating an issue, it is why you’re reading this blog and why most patients book an appointment.

To treat the pain we will use :

  • soft tissue techniques
  • dry needling
  • joint mobilisation
  • stretches in treatment alongside advice that you can implement at home.

Keep an eye out later in the blog for a few of our favourite tips and tricks for shoulder pain at night.

If bursitis has occurred as a result of a shoulder tendon injury, your practitioner will conduct orthopaedic tests. This allows us to determine what exactly has happened.

Once we have diagnosed the underlying cause and have the pain in control, we will create a tailored exercise plan. Including strengthening and rehabbing the underlying injuries. This is to give you the best chance of a full recovery with minimal chance of recurrence.

shoulder pain at night, Shoulder pain at night?

Tips and tricks:

Subacromial bursitis that is waking you at night can be tricky to combat. Everyone has their favourite sleeping positions, and you can’t really stop yourself rolling over onto the shoulder at night.

So here’s 3 tips that we think may help:

  1. Swap sides. If you share a bed with a partner, most people tend to sleep facing away from their partner during the night. If this causes you to lie on the affected shoulder, try swapping sides of the bed. Try this for about a week to see if you stop rolling over onto the shoulder whilst sleeping.

  2. Ice ice baby. Bursitis is an inflammatory process, so try icing the shoulder for 20 minutes within the hour before you get to bed. Whilst not the most pleasant, it can be effective at decreasing the inflammation and shoulder pain while sleeping.

  1. Pillow forts aren’t just for kids. Try to create a small pillow fort for yourself to keep you from rolling over onto the affected shoulder. It also means there is finally a proper use for all those decorative pillows…


Shoulder pain at night can be incredibly painful and draining both physically and emotionally. Subacromial bursitis is often the cause of pain in the shoulder while sleeping and can either occur by itself or due to an underlying injury.

Our goal as practitioners at MPR Health is to first manage the pain in the shoulder and then treat and rehab any underlying injuries. You should be sleeping through the night with that pain-free feeling. Our tailored plans will look to keep your pain from returning in the future.

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Our North Shore Osteopaths are here to help you with your pain so you can get back to living your best life without worrying about pain.

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In the spirit of reconciliation, MPR Health acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.


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