Night pain from rotator cuff problems can be ugly, definitely enough to awaken people and keep them awake much of the night.

Certainly there has to be something you can do to minimize night pain from rotator cuff issues.

Night pain from rotator cuff problems is common, says Edmond Cleeman, MD, a board certified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine and arthroscopic surgery of the shoulder, knee and hip.

“We tell patients to try not to sleep on that shoulder,” he explains.

“My experience has been that most patients are aware that they are sleeping on the bad shoulder, but habit makes it difficult to change.” Sleep on your back as much as possible.

Do not sleep on your stomach, as this is the worst position for the rotator cuff and is likely to bring on pain during the night.

“Most pain is if sleeping on injured shoulder, and when sleeping on stomach when arm is in a position over the head, such as arm under pillow.”

If you are unable to psych yourself into staying on your back, then position some pillows on either side of you that will prevent you from rolling over. Another option is to sleep on a couch or very reclined chair.

Keep your palms up, facing the ceiling, while in bed. To ensure they stay that way, tuck part of your palm-up hand under a pillow.

“The palm-up position leaves the joint space in the shoulder open, freeing up irritated rotator cuff tendons, giving them more room,” says Dr. Cleeman, founding member of TRIARQ, a community of orthopedists and physical therapists.

“Palms down reduces space in the joint cavity and can bring a frayed tendon in contact with bone.”

Night pain from rotator cuff problems can be minimized also by what you do for the shoulder during the day.

“Controlling the inflammation in the bursa can be achieved with anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) or steroid injection,” says Dr. Cleeman.

“Some patients may not be able to take these medications and should check with their physician.

“Steroid injections can be very helpful and usually start working within a week.

“The steroid, a strong anti-inflammatory medicine, is injected into the inflamed bursa.

“Too many injections are to be avoided because it can weaken the remaining rotator cuff tendon tissue.”

In addition, if you’re struggling with rotator cuff pain in the middle of the night, then seek treatment from an orthopedic physician whose specialties include the shoulder. The doctor should prescribe physical therapy.

Rehab exercises should involve both stretching and strengthening, which your doctor or physical therapist can show you.

Furthermore, “A home exercise program is also essential,” says Dr. Cleeman.  “Using a heating pad before stretching or doing the stretches in a warm shower can help.”

Dr. Cleeman is a highly experienced orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at Manhattan Orthopedics. He is committed to performing advanced minimally invasive procedures, allowing his patients to go home the same day.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.