What You Need to Know on How to Sleep with a Frozen Shoulder and Relieve Pain

Have you ever wondered about how to sleep well with a frozen shoulder? Understanding what a frozen shoulder is and how it can impact your sleep quality will often help.

Luckily, as professional osteopaths, our MOSIC team is here to help you find out more about frozen shoulder pain. Hopefully, this will allow you to recovery your full range of motion and relieve any frozen shoulder pain that could be keeping you up at night!

How to Sleep with a Frozen Shoulder

If you’ve ever wondered about how to sleep with a frozen shoulder, don’t worry. There are plenty of simple ways to relieve frozen shoulder pain (which can often feel worse at night). 

However, it’s important to first understand what a frozen shoulder is and how this can cause shoulder pain. Don’t worry – it’s not too tricky.

What is a Frozen Shoulder?

an image of a person with bursitis and tendonitis in shoulder

As the name suggests, a frozen shoulder occurs when your shoulder becomes incredibly stiff. It might even feel like it is frozen (minus the cold).

This condition is otherwise known as adhesive capsulitis. It can be incredibly distressing for an individual suffering from the condition. It can also cause a great deal of shoulder pain in many cases.

Importantly, frozen shoulder pain often starts from keeping your shoulder still for several hours. This makes the condition a relatively common experience. In fact, an estimated 250,000 people or more suffer from a frozen shoulder. 

As such, the condition is significantly more common than many people realise. However, you don’t have to live with shoulder pain. Still, learning how to sleep with frozen shoulder pain requires a careful approach and goal of recovery.

The Stages of a Frozen Shoulder

an image of a person with frozen shoulder pain
If you are experiencing a frozen shoulder, you will likely go through several different stages. The first stage, freezing, occurs when the affected shoulder completely loses its range of motion. Any attempt to move your shoulder during this stage will likely cause a lot of pain.

Next, there is the frozen stage. This stage is usually characterised by less pain in the affected shoulder. However, stiffness in your shoulder muscles may worsen significantly. Sometimes, this can be so bad that using your shoulder at all becomes incredibly difficult.

Finally, there is the thawing period. During the thawing stage, you will notice that your shoulder muscles begin to feel slightly less pressure. Your symptoms shouldn’t get any worse once you reach this stage, and your mobility will slowly improve. However, this may take months or even several years to complete. So, if your recovery seems slow, you may want to try gentle exercise and stretch routines to help combat the stiffness in your shoulder.

Common Causes of a Frozen Shoulder?

an image of a person with frozen shoulder pain

There are many causes of a frozen shoulder and the resulting pain and stiffness. Keeping these in mind could definitely help with controlling your shoulder pain. 

From an anatomical perspective, your shoulder capsule is surrounded by connective tissue. This helps keep everything supple. However, if the capsule tightens, you’ll notice increased pain and stiffness relating to your shoulder joint.

Most often, a frozen shoulder often occurs when you are unable to move your shoulder throughout the day or for an extended period. This results in your shoulder joint getting fixed in place by a thickened capsule. In other words, if you need to keep your arm still for a long time, this can absolutely cause shoulder issues (like a frozen shoulder). 

Your shoulder may feel like it has seized or the muscles are tight after holding it still for a long period of time. As such, experiences such as surgery can be common causes of inflammation or distress. Being unable to move your arm for other reasons could also compound this issue. For example, this might happen if you’re bedbound or have your arm in a cast.

Some common non-surgery causes include a broken upper arm bone, a stroke, or experiencing a rotator cuff injury. A rotator cuff injury can be especially problematic. This is because the rotator cuff will need to heal before you can begin tackling your frozen shoulder.

Risk Factors for a Frozen Shoulder

Common injuries can increase the chance of suffering a frozen shoulder. However, there are also several risk factors that may increase your risk of being affected. These include ageing and certain diseases such as an over or underactive thyroid. Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes also impact your chances.

How Come my Frozen Shoulder is More Painful at Night?

an image of a woman with shoulder pain massaging the area

Many people experience that their adhesive capsulitis can get worse at night. The symptoms can sometimes get worse at night due to differences in our bodies’ natural blood flow.

At night, since our metabolism slows significantly, the rate of blood flow can also drop a lot. This also reduces the rate at which your kidneys can filter water. So, it’s common for inflammation to be worse at night. This is also true when talking about a painful frozen shoulder.

In addition, it’s worth remembering that affected shoulders can also be more prone to discomfort at night. As such, unsuitable sleep positions can increase your risk of getting a frozen shoulder.

Options on How to Relieve Frozen Shoulder Pain at Night

an image of a person visiting an osteopath for shoulder pain

If you have been experiencing shoulder pain due to a frozen shoulder, there are plenty of ways you can promote recovery. 

#1 Get Plenty of Rest

One of the most important things to do when recovering from a frozen shoulder is to get plenty of rest. After all, most often, you’ll be recovering from another complication or condition – such as surgery or a rotator cuff injury. Those conditions need time to heal normally, too; otherwise, scar tissue might form.

Of course, suffering from a frozen shoulder can be irritating and annoying. As such, it’s tempting to throw yourself right in with exercises and stretches to restore your normal range of motion. 

However, you should always take time to rest first before trying to do too much. Remember, the process of recovering from a frozen shoulder without intervention can take years. Even with regular, gentle exercises, it can take several months. Rushing into these exercises can potentially cause even more shoulder pain than before. 

#2 Consider Your Sleeping Position

Many of us prefer to sleep on our sides, naturally. In fact, as many as three-quarters of us are side sleepers. However, if your frozen shoulder feels more painful or stiff after sleeping, your normal sleeping positions might not be helping.

Ideally, if you have a frozen shoulder, try to sleep on your back. Sleeping on your back can help take pressure off your shoulder, which may make your pain at night less intense. 

If you sleep on your back, you might notice better spine alignment, reduced pressure and compression, and improved head, back, and neck pain. Back sleeping positions also cause pain less often than other options by reducing the tension placed on your muscles.

Of course, a high-quality mattress and pillow that supports your shoulder will also help. If your shoulder pain feels almost debilitating, it might be time to invest in new bedding.

#3: Apply Gentle Heat Before Bed

an image of a person applying heat to frozen shoulder

If you are still experiencing pain due to your frozen shoulder, applying heat just before bed may help. Gentle heat applications may help loosen the tissues and ligaments around your shoulder. In turn, this may relieve some of the pressure. In addition, by promoting blood flow to the affected shoulder, you might find this also reduces feelings of numbness and stiffness.

Applying heat alone won’t cure a stiff shoulder. However, it can make the symptoms less painful, allowing you to get a better night’s rest. And, of course, sleep is crucial for long-term health and recovery.

#4 Book an Appointment with your Doctor

If you suspect you might be suffering from a frozen shoulder, your doctor or healthcare provider could help. After your physical exam, the doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to help reduce swelling. Lowering the swelling around your shoulder blade should make it a little easier (and less painful) for you to move your arm normally.

You might find that your doctor also refers you to an osteopath following your consultation. They should be able to help you find the right support and exercises for your recovery.

#5 Visit an Osteopath

You may want to consider visiting an osteopath to reduce pressure on your shoulder. Osteopaths are a type of allied health professional. They focus on a full-body healing approach and so can help find the right mobility and strengthening exercises to try. Plus, your osteopath uses manual therapy and movement to alleviate pain and improve shoulder function. They may be able to suggest simple movements to improve motion in the shoulder and reduce inflammation at night. This can make sleeping with the affected shoulder and the symptoms easier.

During your osteo sessions, your osteopath will take a detailed, full-body approach to your history and healing. They often focus closely on movements and flexibility to promote long-term health. Helping you find the most effective stretch and exercise routines can lower the pressure on your shoulder.

an image of a woman sleeping after being relieved from frozen shoulder pain

These simple movements may improve the health and function of your shoulder. Hopefully, this should support your recovery without pain or discomfort. They focus on restoring your normal range of motion. However, it’s important not to push the affected shoulder joint too quickly. Doing so could injure your shoulder further. Always follow your osteopath’s suggestions for exercise intensity to reduce the risk of further damage.

Of course, not all osteopaths are created equally. So, if you would like to visit an osteopath for support with your recovery and pain, be sure to choose a highly rated local osteo team. Luckily, our experts here at MOSIC can help you find the ideal physical therapy and exercise routine for your needs.

Final Thoughts

In many cases, if you have been experiencing shoulder problems, this shouldn’t have to be something you just live with. Indeed, pain and inflammation around the shoulder can potentially be resolved. Fortunately, visiting an osteopath may help ensure you get the right treatment and exercises for your frozen shoulder stiffness. 

Hopefully, this should allow you to recover and return to normal as soon as possible! After all, there are plenty of tricks to learn how to sleep with a frozen shoulder – and osteo support from a team like ours at MOSIC may be helpful!