18 July 2024
Discover 5 simple tips to alleviate shoulder pain while sleeping. From adjusting your sleeping position to using supportive pillows, find relief now!

If you’ve ever experienced the frustrating discomfort of waking up with shoulder pain after a night of sleep, you’re not alone. Many people struggle with this issue, but the good news is that there are simple tips you can try to alleviate shoulder pain while sleeping. From adjusting your sleeping position to using pillows strategically, these five tips will help you find relief and wake up refreshed, without the unwelcome ache in your shoulder.

5 Tips for Alleviating Shoulder Pain While Sleeping

Proper Sleeping Positions

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for overall health and well-being. It not only rejuvenates our body but also helps in healing and repairing any damage done during the day. However, if you suffer from shoulder pain while sleeping, it can greatly disrupt your sleep and affect your daily activities. Luckily, there are several tips and tricks you can incorporate into your nighttime routine to alleviate shoulder pain and ensure a peaceful slumber. One of the first steps is to pay attention to your sleeping positions.

Back Sleeping Position

Sleeping on your back is often considered the best position for your spine and neck health. It helps maintain the natural alignment of your body and reduces the strain on your shoulders. When sleeping on your back, make sure to use a supportive and firm mattress. This will help distribute your body weight evenly, preventing any pressure buildup on your shoulders. Additionally, placing a small pillow or rolled-up towel under your neck can provide extra support and help maintain proper spinal alignment.

Side Sleeping Position

Side sleeping is another popular sleeping position that can be comfortable for those experiencing shoulder pain. When sleeping on your side, it is crucial to ensure proper alignment of your spine, neck, and shoulders. To achieve this, use a medium-firm mattress that conforms to the natural curves of your body. Placing a pillow between your knees can also help align your hips and reduce any strain on your shoulders. Moreover, consider using a contoured or orthopedic pillow that provides excellent neck and shoulder support.

Pillow Support

Regardless of the sleeping position you prefer, investing in the right pillow can make a world of difference in alleviating shoulder pain. Look for a pillow that is neither too soft nor too firm but offers a good balance of support and comfort. Memory foam pillows are a popular choice as they conform to the shape of your head and neck, providing customized support. Make sure the pillow adequately supports your neck and fills the gap between your head and shoulders, keeping your spine in alignment throughout the night.

Optimal Mattress and Pillow

Apart from focusing on sleeping positions, the quality of your mattress and pillow also plays a vital role in managing shoulder pain while sleeping. Here are a few recommendations to help you choose the right mattress and pillow:

Invest in a Supportive Mattress

When shopping for a mattress, prioritize support over plushness. A firm or medium-firm mattress is generally recommended for people experiencing shoulder pain. It offers the necessary support and prevents your body from sinking too deeply, which can lead to misalignment and increased pressure on your shoulders. Consider testing different types of mattresses, such as memory foam, latex, or hybrid, to find the one that best suits your needs and provides optimal support for your shoulders.

Choose the Right Pillow

Like your mattress, your choice of pillow is equally crucial in maintaining proper alignment and alleviating shoulder pain. Look for a pillow that is adjustable and allows you to customize the height and firmness according to your preference. Memory foam pillows, shredded memory foam pillows, or water-filled pillows are excellent choices as they provide excellent support and contour to the shape of your head and neck. Experiment with different pillow options until you find the one that helps you maintain a neutral sleeping position and reduces shoulder pain.

5 Tips for Alleviating Shoulder Pain While Sleeping

Stretching and Strengthening Exercises

In addition to optimizing your sleeping environment, incorporating stretching and strengthening exercises into your daily routine can significantly alleviate shoulder pain and improve your sleep quality. Here are a few exercises that specifically target the muscles and joints in your shoulders:

Shoulder Blade Squeeze

Start by sitting or standing with your back straight and relaxed. Gently squeeze your shoulder blades together, as if you are trying to hold something between them. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds, then relax. Repeat this exercise 10-15 times, gradually increasing the duration of the squeeze as your shoulder muscles become stronger. This exercise helps improve posture and strengthens the muscles around your shoulders, reducing pain and discomfort.

Pectoral Stretch

Stand facing a doorway or a corner of a wall. Place your forearms on either side of the door or wall, with your elbows at a 90-degree angle. Lean forward slightly until you feel a gentle stretch in your chest and shoulders. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds, then relax. Repeat the stretch 3-5 times, gradually increasing the duration of the stretch as you become more flexible. This stretch helps counteract tightness in the chest muscles, which can contribute to shoulder pain.

Rotator Cuff Strengthening

Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold a light dumbbell (or a bottle of water) in each hand, with your palms facing inward. Keep your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle, close to your body. Slowly lift your arms toward the ceiling, making sure to keep your elbows close to your body throughout the movement. Pause for a moment at the top, then slowly lower your arms back down. Repeat this exercise 10-12 times, gradually increasing the weight as you become stronger. This exercise targets the rotator cuff muscles, which play a crucial role in stabilizing your shoulder joint.

Applying Heat or Cold Therapy

Heat and cold therapy can provide immediate relief from shoulder pain, reduce inflammation, and promote faster healing. Here’s how you can use heat and cold therapy effectively:

Heat Therapy

Applying heat to your shoulder muscles can help relax them and increase blood flow, which can alleviate pain and stiffness. You can use a heating pad, warm towel, or a hot water bottle for heat therapy. Make sure to wrap the heat source in a cloth to protect your skin from burns. Apply the heat for 15-20 minutes, taking short breaks if needed. Repeat the process several times a day or as necessary to ease discomfort.

Cold Therapy

Cold therapy is particularly beneficial for reducing inflammation and numbing the affected area, providing temporary pain relief. You can use an ice pack, a bag of frozen vegetables, or a cold towel for cold therapy. Wrap the cold source in a thin cloth or towel before applying it to your shoulder to prevent direct contact with the skin. Apply the cold pack for 15-20 minutes, taking breaks if necessary. Repeat the process every few hours, or as needed, to help alleviate shoulder pain and reduce swelling.

5 Tips for Alleviating Shoulder Pain While Sleeping

Adjusting Bedroom Environment

Creating a comfortable and conducive sleeping environment is essential for a good night’s sleep, especially if you’re experiencing shoulder pain. Here are a few aspects of your bedroom environment that you should consider:

Room Temperature

Maintaining an ideal room temperature can help promote deep and restful sleep. The optimal sleep temperature tends to vary from person to person, but generally, it is recommended to keep your bedroom between 60-67°F (15-19°C). Experiment with different temperatures to find what works best for you and helps alleviate shoulder pain. Using a fan or adjusting your thermostat can help regulate the temperature and create a comfortable sleeping environment.


The level of humidity in your bedroom can also impact your sleep quality. Dry air can cause nasal congestion and irritation, while excessive humidity can make the room feel stuffy and uncomfortable. Aim for a relative humidity between 30-50% to ensure a comfortable sleeping environment. Using a humidifier or dehumidifier can help maintain an optimal humidity level and prevent any discomfort that may exacerbate shoulder pain.

Air Quality

Good air quality is crucial for a healthy sleep environment. Poor air quality can lead to respiratory problems, allergies, and other health issues that may indirectly contribute to shoulder pain. To improve air quality, make sure to keep your bedroom well-ventilated by opening windows regularly or using an air purifier. Regularly dusting, vacuuming, and keeping your bedding clean can also help minimize allergens and pollutants in your bedroom.

Using Over-the-Counter Pain Relief

For immediate relief from shoulder pain, over-the-counter pain medications and topical analgesics can be effective. Here are a few options to consider:

Topical Analgesics

Topical analgesics, such as creams, gels, or patches, can be applied directly to the skin over the painful area. These products often contain ingredients like menthol, camphor, or capsaicin, which provide a cooling or warming sensation and help relieve pain. Follow the instructions provided with the product and apply as needed for temporary relief from shoulder pain.

Oral Pain Medications

Over-the-counter oral pain medications like acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be effective in managing mild to moderate shoulder pain. These medications can help reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, and make it easier to sleep comfortably. Always follow the recommended dosage and guidelines provided with the medication, and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any underlying medical conditions or are taking other medications.

Avoiding Certain Sleeping Habits

While adopting proper sleeping positions and using supportive products can help alleviate shoulder pain, there are also certain sleeping habits you should avoid to prevent further discomfort. Here are two common habits to be aware of:

Sleeping on Stomach

Sleeping on your stomach can place excessive strain on your shoulders and neck, leading to pain and discomfort. This position forces your head to be turned to one side for an extended period, which can result in misalignment of the spine and increased pressure on the shoulder joints. If you are prone to shoulder pain, try to train yourself to sleep on your back or side instead. Utilize supportive pillows to encourage proper spinal alignment and reduce strain on your shoulders.

Using High or Thick Pillows

Using high or thick pillows can elevate your head and neck too much, causing misalignment with your spine and increasing strain on your shoulders. Opt for a thinner pillow that adequately supports your head and neck without lifting them too high. This will help maintain a neutral sleeping position and prevent additional pressure on your shoulders. Keep in mind that different sleeping positions may require different pillow heights. Experiment with different pillow options to find the one that suits your sleeping position and provides optimal support for your shoulders.

Maintaining Proper Posture during the Day

Proper posture is not just important during sleep but also throughout the day. Maintaining good posture can help alleviate shoulder pain and promote overall musculoskeletal health. Here are a few tips to maintain proper posture during different activities:

Sitting Posture

When sitting, keep your back straight, shoulders relaxed, and your feet flat on the floor. Use a chair with proper lumbar support and adjust the height and angle of your chair to ensure your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Avoid slouching or hunching over, as this can strain your shoulder muscles and contribute to discomfort. Taking short breaks to stretch and change positions can also help prevent stiffness and promote better posture.

Standing Posture

When standing, distribute your weight evenly on both feet, and avoid locking your knees or slumping your shoulders forward. Imagine a string pulling the top of your head towards the ceiling to keep your spine aligned and your shoulders relaxed. Engage your core muscles to support your posture and consider using a footrest or cushion if you need additional support. By maintaining proper standing posture, you can relieve stress on your shoulders and reduce the likelihood of shoulder pain.

Using Supportive Products

In addition to mattresses and pillows, there are other supportive products that can help relieve shoulder pain while sleeping. Here are two examples:

Shoulder Brace

Shoulder braces or supports can provide additional stability and compression to the shoulder joint, reducing pain and promoting healing. These braces are especially useful for those experiencing shoulder instability or recovering from an injury. Consult with a healthcare professional to determine if a shoulder brace is suitable for your condition and how to properly use it for optimal support and pain relief.

Mattress Topper

If your existing mattress is too firm or uncomfortable, adding a mattress topper can provide an extra layer of cushioning and support. Look for a topper that is designed to contour to your body shape and alleviate pressure points. Memory foam mattress toppers are a popular choice as they provide excellent support and help relieve shoulder pain by molding to your body’s curves. Experiment with different thicknesses and materials to find the mattress topper that best suits your needs.

Seeking Professional Medical Advice

If your shoulder pain persists despite trying the aforementioned self-care measures, it may be time to seek professional medical advice. Here are two options to consider:

Consulting a Doctor

Consulting a doctor or orthopedic specialist is crucial if your shoulder pain is severe, worsens over time, or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms. They can assess your condition, diagnose any underlying issues, and recommend appropriate treatment options. This may include further diagnostic tests, physical therapy, or medications.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can be extremely beneficial for shoulder pain management. A skilled physical therapist can assess your condition, identify any muscle imbalances or weaknesses, and develop a personalized exercise and stretching program to improve shoulder strength and mobility. Physical therapy also involves manual therapy techniques and modalities to reduce pain and promote healing. By working with a physical therapist, you can receive professional guidance and support to address the root cause of your shoulder pain and restore optimal function.

In conclusion, finding relief from shoulder pain while sleeping requires a comprehensive approach that includes proper sleeping positions, supportive products, exercises, and self-care measures. By implementing these tips and seeking professional medical advice when necessary, you can minimize shoulder pain, enhance your sleep quality, and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day. Remember, prioritizing your sleep health and addressing any discomfort is essential for your overall well-being. So bid farewell to shoulder pain and embrace a comfortable and restful night’s sleep!

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