Shoulder Pain Sleeping or Lifting Arm

Do you have pain in the shoulder with lifting the arm overhead?  Do you have pain while reaching to pick even small objects up?  Does your shoulder pain sleeping wake you up at night? Pain with everyday activities or with your exercise routine are common issues and ones that should not be ignored.

The shoulder is the joint that links the arm to the rest of the body.  The shoulder is complex due to the amount of motions it can perform.  In general, the more a joint can move, the more control we need to help stabilize the joint.  That is why the shoulder is an often injured joint.

Let us do a brief review of the shoulder anatomy.  The shoulder joint (glenohumeral joint) is a ball and socket joint.  Seventeen muscles are actually involved with shoulder movement!  Four muscles in particular stabilize by the rotator cuff (which is a structure made of 4 muscles that join to a create a strong tendon), ligaments, and other structures such as your capsule and labrum.

Let’s focus on the rotator cuff and look at how it influences the shoulder.  Its main purpose is to provide stability to the joint.  Unfortunately, there are things such as posture (mid back motion and shoulder blade positioning), anatomical changes (osteophytes or bone spurs) and even injuries to the shoulder which can inflame the rotator cuff.  When inflammation occurs, it can “turn off” the activity of the cuff and the mechanics of the shoulder break down.  So normal motions of the shoulder, for example, reaching and lifting begin to hurt.  If this is ignored the inflammation over time can begin to change the quality of the tendon and weaken it.   Therefore, common things such as sleeping, lifting, reaching, etc. cause pain in the shoulder.  That pain can even radiate down past the shoulder into the upper arm, which is the referral pattern of the rotator cuff.

Rehabilitation for rotator cuff issues has been proven to be effective in most instances.   There is good news, even in the presence of a cuff tear conservative treatment such as physical therapy can be effective in returning you to your previous levels of activity.  The rehabilitation involves finding what the cause of the pain is, whether that is lack of motion, poor mechanics, weakness, or instability.

Back in Action Physical Therapy has experienced physical therapists who will identify what the issue is and fix it.  Do not let shoulder pain limit your routine and daily life.  Come get an assessment and get back in action!

Written By David Mills, PT

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