– Activities to avoid and change,
– Strategies for quick relief,
– Stretching for longer-lasting relief,
– Corrective Exercises, Yoga, and more…
This post helps you get relief from trigger points in the infraspinatus muscle. Trigger points along the upper section create that nagging shoulder pain when sleeping. Also, trigger points along the inside border create pain between the shoulder blades.
Activities To Avoid or Change:
Change your sleeping position:
You can reduce shoulder pain from this rotator cuff muscle by changing your sleeping position.
Wrong Sleeping Position.
Once the shoulder pain becomes chronic, sleeping on that shoulder will aggravate it at night. If the painful shoulder is on the bottom, the arm gets pushed forward in the socket. As a result, the shoulder presses down and behind the humerus. This tension irritates the joint and activates the trigger point. On the other hand, (or shoulder) if it is the painful shoulder on top, draping the arm forward over-stretches the muscle. This position also activates the trigger point and increases shoulder pain.
Better Sleeping Position
Start by sleeping on your side with the painful shoulder behind you. Give it at least 10 minutes before you change position. It will likely be uncomfortable at first, especially if you have a firm mattress. After a few minutes, the glenohumeral joint will shift, and it’ll feel better.
A king-sized pillow along your torso makes this position more comfortable by taking the twist out of your neck. After a few minutes, the shoulder will shift. Then, change your position to sleep on your back.
Changing your sleeping position is important. I have worked on the shoulder of my gym partner off and on for a few years. He had quit complaining about it for some months so I asked how it was doing. He smiled and said that he started sleeping as I recommended and the arm quit bothering him.
For Temporary Relief:
Mid-sized IcyHot patches work well in the short term. Place one on the back of your shoulder, just under the bony ridge of the shoulder blade. It should cover the center of the muscle shown in the picture.
If you can, reach around and position the patch to cover the inside edge of the shoulder blade. This position is not essential but may help when your pain is along that inside edge.
Avoid topical creams. They tend to stain pajamas and the smell wakes people in the night.
NOTE: The standard recommendation is that you lay on the “good” side and support your upper arm with a pillow. This position puts the painful shoulder level and not draped downward. When you drape the arm, it stretches the muscle activates the trigger point. This supportive position doesn’t fix the long term problem but is a good idea for temporary relief, especially when combined with the topical patch.
These self-care activities, like over-the-counter drugs, are not intended to replace appropriate medical attention. If you have concerns about these self-care activities, get help from a professional. Use these suggestions and strategies with discretion and at your own risk. See your doctor when your pain is severe, persistent, or doesn’t respond to these simple suggestions.
Stretches and Exercises for Longer-Lasting Relief:
Stretching is more effective when it involves a full shoulder routine that helps to identify and resolve global problems in the shoulder instead of just addressing the local problem. Having a therapist evaluate and balance the shoulder through appropriate exercises is helpful, especially when this is chronic.
The stretching in this routine is great for this problem, especially with ice-and-stretch or under a hot shower. The description helps you get the stretch right. As a result, you target the shoulder, not the upper back.
The tennis ball treatment is a nice adjunct when the stretching is not effective. Make sure that you don’t over do it, don’t worry, I tell you how to soothe it if you do.
I’d love your feedback
on how this works for you
and any suggestions you might have.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Does your Shoulder pinch when you are in the Threading the Needle pose? It usually means the humerus is a little forward in the socket. Laying in the sleep position shown above for 90-180 seconds usually shift the joint and eases the pain of this rotator cuff muscle in this pose. If not, see your bodyworker.
This trigger point is perpetuated by a small problem in the position of the shoulder joint. Typically, it just gets worse over time. You should see a bodyworker that knows shoulder work. Most NMT therapists address this by working the rotator cuff tendons, especially subscapularis, which mobilizes the humeral head. Many people will let this problem linger for years and eventually get rotator cuff surgery when they could have addressed it earlier.
Other patterns that may better match your pain pattern…
Does another Self-Care post
better match your pain?
Here is the post about the trigger point pattern associated with these Self-Care activities.
Several patterns create shoulder pain while sleeping. You may also want to look at other patterns for shoulder pain
If you came here because of pain between the shoulder blades, double-check yourself. There are a number of trigger points that create pain in this area. Look at these posts about pain between the shoulder blades.
This site is undergoing changes. Starting in early 2020, we began improving the format. We are also adding more extensive self-care, illustrations, therapist notes, anatomy, and protocols. We appreciate your input and feedback. You will see us adding posts and updating older posts as time permits.
Weekly Featured Post
This post shows you how to press out the trigger points and stretch the infraspinatus muscle. It’s a small muscle on the back of the shoulder but creates a number of problems, including:
- shoulder pain when sleeping
- loss of grip strength
- upper neck pain
- pain along the inside edge of the shoulder blade
Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia where he sees clients. He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points, and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.
*This site is undergoing major changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make it easier to read. The result will also be more accessible and
will include more patterns with better self-care. In the meanwhile, there may be inconsistency in formatting, content presentation, and readability. Until we get older posts updated, please excuse our mess.