If your upper arm or shoulder itches only at night especially in bed, the cause might not be related to your skin.

First check to see if there’s anything going on with your skin in the area that keeps itching.

Is there a rash? Red spot or bumps?

“If you have no physical symptoms on your skin, but experience an itching sensation on your upper arm, it could be nerve related,” says Dr. Janet Prystowsky, board certified dermatologist in New York, NY, with 30+ years’ experience.

“I treated a patient who would experience a shoulder itch at night when lying down. It turned out that, while lying down, a nerve would pinch in his cervical vertebrae.

“This pinched nerve would give him the sensation of a phantom itch.

Part of the reason he would only experience this itch at night is because there’s usually less stimuli to distract from the itch during nighttime.

“When background stimuli go away, subtle body phenomena like this phantom itch become more noticeable.”

If your upper arm (or shoulder) itches only at night when you’re in bed, the position of lying down, as mentioned, could be causing just enough pressure on a nerve to buzz it and create a phantom itch.

When people experience itching, they usually first think of seeing either their general practitioner or a dermatologist.

The type of doctor who’d treat a nerve problem in the neck is a neurosurgeon.

Depending on what kind of health plan you have, you may need to first see your primary care doctor, who will then refer you to a specialist.

When your doctor hears the complaint of “itching upper arm,” they might automatically think “dermatologist.”

Ask the doctor if the itching could be coming from a pinched nerve, assuming there are no visible skin symptoms.

In combination with her focus on early skin cancer detection and removal, Dr. Prystowsky provides a wide range of revitalizing and rejuvenating treatments.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
Top image: Shutterstock/Emily Frost