Wednesday, June 15, 2022

How To Relieve Shoulder Pain From Sleeping On Side

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What To Do About Nighttime Shoulder Pain

If one shoulder hurts when sleeping, try laying on the other side. While people often do not control their bodies while asleep, you could try building a wall with pillows to prevent rolling over onto the injured shoulder while asleep. If that doesnt help, try sleeping semi-upright either in a chair or by propping a few pillows under the upper body to alleviate pressure on the affected shoulder. Ask your doctor for a list of stretches that can be done to loosen the shoulder; these may be especially beneficial to do before going to bed.

However, if shoulder pain is a fact of life for you, it may be time to seek treatment.

Your orthopedic doctor will physically examine your shoulder, assess your medical history, and may order tests that can help with a diagnosis and identifying the cause of your shoulder pain. In general, an X-ray can identify structural issues such as bone fractures or spurs or the presence of arthritis; for soft tissue assessment, an MRI may be required.

The Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland offer all manner of orthopedic treatments under one roof. If your shoulder has been aching and shows no sign of improvement, schedule your appointment by calling 644-1880 or use the request an appointment form. We look forward to seeing you.

Osteoarthritis Of The Shoulder

Osteoarthritis happens when cartilage, which provides cushioning between your bones, begins to break down. It can affect various joints throughout the body, including your shoulder.

Shoulder osteoarthritis can naturally occur as you age. It can also happen due to previous injuries that affected the shoulder joint, such as a rotator cuff tear or a dislocated shoulder.

Symptoms of shoulder osteoarthritis can include:

  • pain, which is initially worse when you move your shoulder but can eventually occur while at rest or while sleeping
  • stiffness or loss of range of motion
  • grinding or clicking sounds that happen when you move your shoulder

Treatment can include using oral or topical pain relievers as well as specific physical therapy exercises for arthritis in the shoulder.

Corticosteroid injections can also help with inflammation. Surgery may be recommended if nonsurgical treatments dont help relieve your shoulder pain.

Perform Stretches For Shoulder Pain At Night

Exercising a few hours before bed can also be useful as it will increase blood flow throughout the whole body. This can alleviate pain, but also relax you enough to ease sleeping troubles. Try something low impact like a brisk walk or a bike ride, and then allow your body to cool down again before going to bed.

Further, certain shoulder stretches can help you reduce the tension and stress that has built up during the day. Not only are shoulder stretches an easy option, but they take only a few minutes at night. Stretching has huge health benefits like increasing flexibility, range of motion, and blood flow. Another big plus is that they are simple to do in your own home and require no special equipment. Before you go to bed, try these seven shoulder stretches to alleviate some tension and reduce your stress.

Shoulder stretch basics

If you start to feel pain at any time during a stretch, stop immediately. Stretching should be done to the point of mild strain. If you experience pain, you are going too hard and could injure yourself. This is especially true if the pain is sharp or sudden. It is a good idea for chronic pain sufferers to consult a pain doctor before starting too strenuous of a stretching routine as overexertion could exacerbate certain conditions.

Chin retractions

Eagle arms

Cow-face pose

Standing wall stretch

Shoulder blade stretch

Half-dragon fly


Can Your Sleeping Position Cause Shoulder Pain

Certain positions, such as sleeping on your side, can put additional stress on your shoulder. This is because when you sleep on your side, your shoulder ends up bearing a lot of the weight of your torso.

One small study in people seeking care for shoulder pain evaluated the link between sleeping position and shoulder pain. It found that 67 percent of the study participants slept on the same side that they were experiencing shoulder pain.

While your sleeping position can contribute to shoulder pain, its not the only culprit. Several other conditions, like those below, can also cause pain when youre trying to sleep. With each of these conditions, sleeping on the affected shoulder can exacerbate the pain.

What To Consider When Purchasing A Pillow For Shoulder Pain

Shoulder Pain At Night: Effective Ways To Find Relief (2019)

If you take pillow manufacturers at their word, then every pillow on the market today will reduce shoulder pain and deliver nightlong comfort regardless of your needs or preferences. However, very few pillows are designed to specifically target and alleviate shoulder pain. Furthermore, a pillow that is not soft, firm, thick, or thin enough can cause added discomfort based on your body type, head size, shoulder dimensions, and sleep position.

Before buying a pillow for shoulder pain, check the following specs and reach out to the manufacturer if you cant track down any of these details.

Consider Your Sleeping Position

A persons body type and sleeping position will impact the perceived firmness of a mattress as well as the support they need. For instance:

  • Lightweight sleepers who lie on their side may want a softer mattress to enjoy enough pressure relief around the shoulder
  • Lightweight stomach or back sleepers will probably be happy with a medium bed that balances comfort with support. Read our best mattress for lightweight sleepers page for more information.
  • Average-weight side sleepers may prefer a mattress thats between medium and medium-firm
  • Average-weight stomach and back sleepers should find the support they need on a medium-firm mattress
  • Heavy-weight side sleepers will find support and a touch of pressure relief on a medium-firm to firm mattress
  • Heavy-weight stomach or back sleepers will probably need a firm mattress in order to enjoy adequate spinal support

As a general rule, back and stomach sleepers need to prioritize spinal alignment, while side sleepers will want to emphasize pressure relief.

Side Sleeping With Arms Out

Side sleeping is the most commonly reported sleep position. Its the second-best position for spine health, but it can create some issues for your shoulders. Side sleepers often report pain in one or both shoulders.

If youre a side sleeper, here are a few tips to help lessen shoulder pain:

  • Dont place your arms straight out in front of you. This position can put extra pressure on the nerves and restrict blood flow to your shoulders and arms, and you may wake up with a pins and needles sensation in one or both arms and shoulders.
  • Find a pillow that keeps your ear, shoulder, and hips aligned. Many pillows can place your neck in an awkward position which puts strain on your muscles.  
  • Try rotating which side you sleep on each night. This might help alleviate the shoulder pain you feel when you wake up.

The Best Frozen Shoulder Sleep Positions

There are various ways to cope and try to get quality sleep when one has frozen shoulder or sore shoulder pain. However, most health practitioners will recommend that you avoid sleeping on your stomach if at all possible, as this position pulls your shoulders into an unstable position that could do further damage over time.

Instead, try one or more of the following variations to determine what position works best for you.

Poor Or Uncomfortable Bed

If you wake up with shoulder pain and you have upper back discomfort, it could be because your bed is uncomfortable.

The Journal of Chiropractic Medicine reported that beds older than 5 years may start to cause back pain, shoulder pain, and shoulder stiffness. Various studies have found that changing the bedding system is sometimes enough to improve sleep quality and prevent shoulder pain when sleeping. Just changing your mattress can help improve the quality of your sleep.

So Why Do My Shoulders Hurt When I Sleep

Most of us go to bed in the hopes of having a good nights sleep, right? When we wake up with shoulder stiffness or pain in the middle of the night or morning, its only natural to wonder whether our sleeping posture caused the problem.

If your shoulder feels out of whack after sleeping, it is very likely that the pain is being caused by poor sleep hygiene and improper sleeping positions. If you dont sleep in a neutral position, you are putting excess pressure on your cervical spine as well as on your neck and shoulder muscles, which is why you wake up in pain.

Heres what to remember when choosing a sleeping posture for you:

The Causes Of Shoulder Pains

The most prevailing cause of shoulder pain is an injury to the muscles and tendons of the rota tor cuff. You may be diagnosed with conditions such as bursitis, rota tor cyst tendinitis, impingement, and tears.

A rota tor cuff is a collection of small muscles situated around the ball joint of the shoulder. They support circular arm movements. This area is also a very delicate area that when under any pressure, can result in dislocation.

When these muscles are injured, it is often difficult to lift the arm above the head, to reach behind the back, or to put on oneself. It also makes sleeping difficult if you like being on your side.

New Mattresses Take Time To Break In

Whats more, just like a good pair of shoes, a quality mattress has a break-in period. Components like springs and foams can be stiff at first but will soften up and conform to your body over time. Its a sign, in fact, that the mattress is doing its job.

Heres what one Saatva customer had to say about the break-in period of their new mattress:

The first week, it took a while to get used to the firmness of the mattress. I even thought about returning it as it felt the same as sleeping on the floor except in an elevated position. I decided to give it another week. This was crucial because the mattress DOES take time to break-in and conform to your body. Its been exactly 9 weeks to the day and the mattress feels GREAT!!

Related: How to break in a mattress to get better sleep

How To Fix Shoulder Pain And Tension From Sleeping On The Side

Shoulder Pains While Sleeping â 3 Effective Ways to Get ...

I spend a significant portion of my day in front of a computer screen, staring intensely at it while frantically pressing keys in a hunched over position. Indeed, like so many people I have a sedentary job where I have to sit for many hours each day.

And no matter how hard I try to maintain an upright sitting posture, I always seem to end up in a slouched position without realizing it. It seems Ive gotten so used to this posture, I even have tense shoulders while sleeping! It seems my shoulders are always up to something, literally.

You might be surprised to hear that your posture during the day, such as while sitting, can affect your posture while sleeping. Unfortunately, bad posture puts undue stress on your neck which can also spread to your shoulders and back.

It is very easy to develop bad posture from other activities besides sitting as well. For example, if you tend to carry heavy bags a long time everyday, especially if one of the straps causes you to elevate one shoulder higher than the other to prevent it from sliding, that can also cause tight and achy shoulders. And activities that you do in the day can translate to shoulder tension at night.

Change Your Sleeping Position

Switching to an alternative position may be a simple way to enjoy blissful sleep even when youre suffering shoulder pain. For side sleepers, the easiest way is to lie down on the side opposite the pain area.

That can ensure a comfortable shuteye while lowering the risk of aggravating the pain. Keep in mind that the best sleeping position for shoulder pain is the back.

Lying down on the back may not only free up the shoulders from any sort of pressure but it can also promote even distribution of the sleepers body weight. As long as the pain does not get worse when you lie down in this position, you should be fine.

Shoulder Pain Examination And Treatment

These self-care methods can help if the pain is caused by tendinitis from side sleeping. But if they dont work even after few weeks, then go to your doctor because shoulder pain can be caused by nerve problems, soft tissue injuries, bursitis or arthritis. The doctor will conduct some tests and evaluations to get to the bottom of the problem and give you the right therapy.

Some of the tests may be MRI or ultrasound. These tests are done to scan the soft tissue, by completing them, your doctor can identify the tendon injuries or ligament damages. You might even be prompted to do the X-ray scan. X-ray can help your doctor to see if there is an injury to the bones.

An arthrogram is one more option, which is an X-ray, but prior to it, a dye is injected into the shoulder, so the muscles and tendons are better visible. And the last one is arthroscopy. Its a surgical test in which the doctor uses a fiber-optic camera to check your shoulder for soft tissue injuries that are not visible in other tests.


Treatment can differ based on the type of injury. There are three basic ones: Medications, Rest or Surgery.

If the injury is light, your doctor will ask you to rest and limit your activities, maybe even get physical therapy. The goal of this treatment is to strengthen the muscles and increase the flexibility. Limiting your normal activities and avoiding exercises that involve a lot of shoulder activity will reduce and prevent the shoulder pain.

Is Side Sleeping Bad For Your Shoulder

Some doctors discourage side sleeping because it can cause damage to the rotator cuff of your shoulder. Side sleepers place a lot of pressure on this group of tendons, so they need a pillow with good support.

Minimize left or right shoulder pain by making sure youve got your three pillows in check. Youll need one to provide proper neck support, one thin pillow between your knees, and one more in front of your stomach.

If you have shoulder pain from sleeping on your side, you can minimize the discomfort by wearing an arm sling to bed. The sling will keep you from sleeping with your arm in a strange and uncomfortable position throughout the night. Of course, you can always sleep on your good side to alleviate shoulder pain, but old habits are hard to break. To help, place a pillow at your back or sleep with your back to the wall to keep from returning to the bad shoulder side.

Make sure you have a mattress that hugs your curves in all the right places, and your pressure points will find sweet relief. A mattress with a little give will provide just the right type of comfort to reduce shoulder pain.

Sleep On Your Left Side

What side should you sleep on? Does it really matter? The answer is yes. Its actually better to sleep on your left side because of the placement of your organs.

We dont want to give you flashbacks of 8th-grade anatomy class, but basically, your stomachs natural position is on your left side. This gastric position allows your stomach to more effectively digest your food and move it along in an organized fashion.

However, if you sleep on the right side, your late-night snack works against gravity and hinders digestion. This position is also why heartburn can be common. Sleeping on the left side promotes healthy blood flow and has cascading effects on your digestive system, including decreased heartburn and acid reflux symptoms.

If you cant remember which side to sleep on, just memorize the phrase, Left is right and right is wrong. Youll be on the right track to the best side sleeping position.

Different Types Of Shoulder Pain

We all wish we could have a good nights sleep every time we lie down at night. When we wake up with stiffness or shoulder pain, we may wonder if our sleeping posture is the cause. But before we blame our sleep position, other factors may be at hand.

  • Radiating pain. Some individuals have neck or back pain that radiates to their shoulders. Problems in the spine can cause this issue.
  • Repetitive movements. Shelf-stockers, cashiers, and others who perform repetitive movements are more likely to experience shoulder problems due to the wear and tear on their joints and muscles.
  • Spinal stiffness due to poor posture. Another possible reason why you have shoulder pain is because of poor posture. When you are hunched over your computer or smartphone for hours, it can inhibit your rib cage and spinal movement. This can also leave at risk for shoulder issues.

Medical Conditions that Cause Shoulder Pain 

It is also possible for shoulder pain to be triggered by a medical condition such as:


Solutions to Shoulder Pain from Sleeping on Your Side 

Shoulder problems may develop when we wake up after sleeping on our side. This is not surprising since we put a lot of pressure on the shoulder joints when we sleep. Side sleeping is a common characteristic in those who have chronic shoulder pain. Unfortunately, shoulder pain at night can disrupt your sleep.

The question now is what solutions to shoulder pain from sleeping on side can you try to feel better? Here are a few options to consider.

Try Yoga To Reduce The Tension

Shoulder pain is pretty often related to neck pain and neck stiffness. Yoga can help with stretching the neck and the shoulders. There is some Yoga poses that are very helpful check thend neck stiffness. Yoga can help with stretching the neck and the shoulders. There is some Yoga poses that are very helpful check them out in this video:

Types And Causes Of Hip Pain

Hip pain can occur as a result of a wide range of medical conditions. Some people experience hip pain as a short-term issue while others deal with it over an extended period of months or years.

The pain can be felt in the hip, which may be indicative of a problem inside the actual joint, or around the hip, such as in the buttock or thigh, which is more often associated with issues in the surrounding tissue. Some hip pain is also referred from other parts of the body, which means that the problem does not originate directly in or around the hip itself.

The following sections describe some of the most common causes for hip pain; however, this is not an exhaustive list. Because of its effects on quality of life and the possibility that it is connected to a larger health concern, it is important for anyone with hip pain to review their symptoms with a doctor.

Testing To Assess The Trigger Point

NEW: How to Overcome a Side Sleeper Shoulder Pain 2020 ...

These tests will produce pain and restricted motion when the trigger points in the infraspinatus are active.

The first test involves placing the forearm across the low back. It usually produces pain in the shoulder. Pain worsens as you reach up the middle of the back. Notably, this may also indicate trigger points in the coracobrachialis with a different pain pattern.

In the second test, reach around the back of your head like the pic. When the trigger points are active, it is restricted and painful. Also, you cannot contact the edge of your mouth without pain and stiffness.

On Your Painful Shoulder Elevated

Yes, I know it seems painful, but its not. Here youre putting an ergonomically soft pillow on top of the stomach. It would help if you had another in under your armpit area to support, push it up, and restrict pressure on your sore shoulder.

Make sure the hand or the elbow isnt resisting too high. Thatll help improve blood flow and prevent numbness. It would help if you also put another pillow between the legs on your upper hip. The position will help your pelvis, shoulders, and spine straighten up plus relieve shoulder pain for a restful slumber.

My Problem Isnt Related To Sleeping: Other Causes Of Shoulder Pain

Besides sleeping in the wrong position, there are other factors that can result in shoulder pain, including injury or trauma, repeated motion, medical conditions, and stress. Many of these are the result of an injury to the shoulder either acutely or as a build-up over time. However, there are also medical reasons why the shoulder may experience pain as a result of a problem elsewhere in the body:

Poor Posture: If your thoracic spine is constantly bent or hunched over, you can experience spinal stiffness that will affect your shoulder. This type of stiffness is commonly caused by poor posture during the day. Constant leaning over our smartphones and computers leaves our thoracic spine bent for hours. Poor posture inhibits spine and rib cage mobility, putting us at risk of more shoulder injuries. If your computer is not already at eye level, try a computer stand or a stack of books that will lift the monitor up. This way, you wont need to lean over to work.

Repetitive Movements: If your job requires you to do heavy lifting or repetitive movements day in and day out, you are at a greater risk of experiencing shoulder pain. For example, shelf-stockers are likely to experience shoulder pain due to the constant wear-and-tear on the same joints and muscles day after day.

C Invest In An Ergonomic Pillow

Get yourself an ergonomically-made soft pillow. It comes in handy in helping you stay stable while you sleep and prevent you from rolling onto your hurting shoulder. A full-body sleeping pillow is the best when places between, under your knees, or around your back to give you extra support.

Get a head pillow that will ensure your neck and head stay in a straight line with your spine. When you set your body in this position, you will be providing theres no tension on the neck, thus reducing the chances of getting a sore shoulder.

The pillow also helps in reducing pressure on your shoulders, keeping them relaxed all night. If the sleep pillow does not cover your whole neck area, you can get a small, rolled towel under there for the support.

Final Verdict!

Now its up to you to find your best sleeping position for shoulder pain. The list isnt long, so you can try them all to find the most ideal for you. If youre still experiencing the pain, its best to seek help from your doctor dont suffer in silence!

Sharing is caring!

Tips To Avoid Shoulder Pain From Sleeping Side

How do you sleep at night? If youre a side sleeper who sleeps on their left side, pain in left shoulder blade could be eased by sleeping on your opposite side. Remember to put a pillow behind your back to prevent you from rolling over to the affected shoulder in your sleep.   

How to sleep on your side without hurting your shoulder:

  • A quality pillow under your head will support the delicate neck area, preventing additional pain radiating to the shoulders
  • Dont sleep on your stomach as this puts your shoulder out of alignment 
  • a pillow between your knees helps to align the hips  
  • Sleep on a soft and supportive mattress that provides pressure relief  

Understanding Shoulder Pain From Sleeping And Beyond

Underslept. In pain. A full day of agonizing movement ahead of you. Is this what waking up is supposed to feel like? I dont think you need us to tell you that the answer is unequivocally a no.

If sleep is supposed to be a time for the body to heal, why is it that so many people feel shoulder pain from sleeping? We totally get why you want to press the snooze button on shoulder pain, but trust us when we say that this isnt one to ignore.

There are numerous reasons why you might be experiencing shoulder pain, ranging from injuries to overuse and yes, even your sleeping position. Shoulders are one of the most complex parts of the body, so its no surprise that complaints about pain in this area are relatively common, particularly when you first wake up.

If youre tired of feeling pain and ready to get back to living life to the fullest, take the first step in solving that mysterious shoulder issue that has been nagging you. By pinpointing the exact problem, you can find the right treatment plan and get on the fast-track to health!

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