Most patients who come to see me in clinic with shoulder problems complain about pain and disturbed sleep. Common complaints include difficulty finding a comfortable sleeping position and waking up several times as they roll on to the affected side.

What are the effects of poor or disturbed sleep?

 

Disturbed sleep may affect daytime activities and affect a person’s ability to function at work. Poor sleep can negatively affect quality of life and lead to worsening anxiety and depression. Poor-quality sleep also has an effect on the ability to cope with chronic pain and may cause a vicious cycle of worsening sleep.

 

Which shoulder conditions affect sleep?

Almost all painful conditions affecting the shoulder can cause sleep disturbance. In one study, over 70% of patients with shoulder problems had poor-quality sleep. Rotator cuff tears, shoulder arthritis, and frozen shoulders commonly cause disturbance of sleep with frozen shoulder being the most common culprit.

 

Do other upper limb conditions affect sleep?

 

Neck pain and nerve irritation can cause night pain and difficulty sleeping. Some patients with muscular problems around the shoulder blade can also complain of affected sleep. Nerve compression at the elbow (cubital tunnel syndrome) or wrist (carpal tunnel syndrome) can also cause “pins and needles” in the fingers which wake patients throughout the night. Rarely, infection, and some tumours can cause night pain.

 

What can I do about shoulder pain affecting my sleep?

 

Changing sleeping position, getting a comfortable pillow, trying to not lay on the affected shoulder, and taking pain killers at night before going to bed are all good strategies to help sleep better with shoulder pain. However, treating the underlying cause is the best approach. If shoulder pain is affecting your sleep, book an appointment for a specialist consultation.