Mitigating Morning Discomfort: How to Give Pain the Cold Shoulder
Humans are creatures of habit; we have some routines that we just can’t shake. For many, this includes our sleeping patterns. If you’re a side sleeper, chances are you’ve woken up on more than one occasion with shoulder pain or soreness. It’s actually quite common. Our sleeping patterns and poses are solidified early in life and we tend to stick with them. However, prolonging these patterns, or sleeping on the same side every night can lead to shoulder pain (especially in the morning hours).
When we sleep on our sides, we tend to tuck or crunch our arms under a pillow, or position our elbow above our head; this puts pressure on the supraspinatus. One of the four rotator cuff muscles that extends from the shoulder blade to the humerus, the supraspinatus is responsible for stabilizing the shoulder joint. The repeated sleep behavior of leaning toward one side can place immense pressure on this joint, ultimately leading to inflammation, fraying, and in serious cases – rotator cuff tear.
As creatures of habit, it’s difficult – but not impossible, to modify these ingrained sleep positions. There are also many ways to switch up your routine for the better. If you can’t stomach the idea of sleeping on your back, try switching sides when at all possible. Propping your head up higher with a pillow will also relieve some of the pressure you may be feeling. During the day, try icing and immobilization for your shoulder; this should help reduce discomfort and stiffness.
In some cases, it’s not the sleeping position that causes shoulder pain – but rather overuse, or a degradation of the joint’s health. According to Arthritis-health.com, the shoulder is a “marvel” of form and function – designed to twist a full 360 degrees. However, this also makes it highly susceptible to injury and instability. Glenohumeral and acromioclavicular arthritis are two types of shoulder ailments that develop over the course of months or years. If your shoulder pain is most intense in the hours after rising, these conditions could be the culprit.
In order to diagnose your disorder, your physician will conduct a series of tests. Typically, a physical exam will be sufficient to reveal the cause of pain; however, in some cases imaging exams such as X-rays will offer a closer look. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation are all beneficial for speeding recovery of shoulder soreness. Your physician may also recommend over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications or topical creams. Tendinitis can be eased through the use of corticosteroid injections; however, this isn’t a permanent fix and shouldn’t be administered more than a few times due to the risk of ruptured tendons.
Before resorting to surgery, a trustworthy doctor will always try less invasive methods of relieving your symptoms. Physical therapy is highly beneficial for alleviating shoulder pain and strengthening the affected muscles. Ask your physician if eccentric strength training might work for you; this mode is particularly valuable for treating chronic tendon conditions.
If your mornings (and sometimes, afternoons) are marked by persistent shoulder pain, maybe it’s time for a wake-up call. Pay a visit to Greater Chesapeake Hand to Shoulder. Since 1987, their reputable specialists have diagnosed and treated scores of shoulder conditions. For more information, call 410-296-6232 or request an appointment online.