Best Sleeping Positions for Shoulder Pain

Are you suffering from shoulder pain? If you are, then you already know how hard it is to get a good night’s sleep. All too often, shoulder pain can prevent you from staying asleep or even getting to sleep. What is causing it? And is there anything you could or should do about it? There are a number of possible causes of shoulder pain that could occur while you’re sleeping. If you have shoulder problems, stay with us, because in this article, we will explore the best sleeping positions for shoulder pain as well as the steps you can take to help get a restful night’s sleep.

Can your sleeping position cause shoulder pain?


Certain sleeping positions, such as sleeping on your side, can cause additional stress on your shoulder. Because when you sleep on your side, you sleep on your shoulder and your shoulder ends up bearing a lot of the weight of your torso.

While your sleeping position can be the cause of your shoulder pain, it’s not the only reason. There are several other medical conditions that can also cause pain when you’re trying to sleep. Sleeping on the affected shoulder with each of these conditions can exacerbate the pain.

(A quick disclaimer: this article is for those with shoulder ache and strain; not chronic pain, severe shoulder pain, frozen shoulder, or other serious medical conditions. If your problems are pervasive which go beyond normal pains and aches, please seek help from a medical professional, who can provide you a proper treatment or treatment plan for your particular injury.)

The Best Sleeping Positions for Shoulder Pain Problems

best sleeping positions for shoulder pain

Your shoulder is what the doctors like to call a ball-and-socket joint. The term “ball” refers to the rounded bone on top of your upper arm and it rotates around your shoulder blade’s concave part – the “socket” – leading to the series of motion your shoulder has. That ball is kept in the socket by a bunch of muscles, tendons and soft tissues.

The group of tendons and muscles around your shoulder joint is called the rotator cuff. When laying in one position for a long time (like for an entire night of sleep) strain these muscles and tendons, this is generally called a rotator cuff injury.  One type of familiar rotator cuff injury involves the strain of the rotator cuff tendons caused by an awkward sleep position: also known as, “sleeping on it wrong”. The compression of your shoulder into an uncomfortable mattress can also limit blood flow to your arm, which could result in the pins-and-needles feeling. These varieties of issues with side sleeping can interrupt your sleep, or worse, make you wake up sore.

Is there anything you can do to deal with this pain? If you have shoulder pain, the first thing you should do is try a different sleeping position to relieve the upset shoulder of having to support your weight, which will allow it to heal faster. You should try sleeping on your back to get the pain relief you need without creating more injuries because it will help keep your spine aligned while keeping your weight off your injured shoulder.

What if you sleep on your stomach? Excellent question. Well, unless you can breathe through your pillow, you’ll have to turn your head to sleep on your stomach. And that is precisely the kind of awkward position which will cause neck pain in addition to probably increasing your existing shoulder pain. You really want to avoid that kind of hassle in your life.

Best Sleep Solutions for Shoulder Pain

If you have shoulder pain, here are some tips to improve your sleep quality.

  1. Try sleeping on the opposite side of the bad shoulder

If sleeping on your back isn’t effective for you to have a night of quality sleep, then try a side sleeping position by sleeping on the opposite side of your bad shoulder. In this situation, you can use a pillow to help your sore shoulder. Put the pillow in the underarm part of your painful shoulder.

  1. Avoid sleeping on your stomach

Many people prefer sleeping on their stomach thinking that they are keeping pressure off their sore shoulders. Unfortunately, sleeping on your stomach is not a stable position and will pull your shoulder forward out of alignment. Instead, you should sleep on your back because this helps keeps your shoulders in fine and stable alignment.

  1. Use good support for your head

To keep your upper body in proper alignment, you’ll need a pillow under your head. This keeps your shoulder as comfortable as possible. And for additional support, consider adding a small rolled-up towel under the neck area.

  1. Use a body pillow

If movement during sleep is sore or wakens you, using a full-length body pillow could be the solution to a restful night for you. This stops you from moving around onto your painful shoulder, yet is pretty comfortable.

  1. Don’t be afraid to try different sleeping positions and tips

If a particular sleeping position was working nicely for a while but isn’t working anymore, then consider trying other positions. Using the other tips above could be a good starting point. It has been shown that consistently sleeping in one position every time can, in fact, cause shoulder pain. Sleeping in one consistent position can cause cramping and/or compression in certain areas of the body, which creates a postural imbalance that can over time results in pain. Of course, if you have found a good sleeping position for your painful shoulder, there is no need to try something new just for the sake of varying it. Try out new options if your preferred sleeping position isn’t working well for you anymore.

Final words:

At the end of the day, you are the one who needs to find out what works best for you. But we hope best sleeping positions for shoulder pain blog will help you get started and let you know that it is very much possible for you to wake up completely pain-free and refreshed. Have a good night.

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