23 May 2024
Learn about the causes of shoulder pain after sleeping on your back and discover effective remedies. Alleviate discomfort and wake up pain-free.

If you’ve ever woken up with a sharp pain in your shoulder after a night of sleeping on your back, you’re not alone. Many individuals experience this uncomfortable sensation, and it can hinder your ability to start the day with energy and motivation. However, understanding the causes of this shoulder pain and discovering effective remedies can help alleviate the discomfort and ensure a restful night’s sleep. In this article, we will explore the various factors that contribute to shoulder pain after sleeping on your back and provide practical solutions to help you wake up refreshed and pain-free.

Causes of Shoulder Pain

Causes and Remedies for Shoulder Pain After Sleeping on Your Back

Incorrect Sleeping Position

One of the leading causes of shoulder pain is sleeping in an incorrect position. When you sleep on your back, it may lead to increased pressure on your shoulder joints and muscles. This can result in stiffness and discomfort upon waking up.

Structural Issues

Structural issues such as misalignment of the spine or shoulder can also contribute to shoulder pain. An improper posture during sleep can create stress on the shoulder joint, causing pain and discomfort.

Muscle Imbalance

Another common cause of shoulder pain is muscle imbalance. We often neglect to strengthen the muscles that support our shoulders, leading to weak and imbalanced muscles. Over time, this can cause strain and pain in the shoulder area.

Poor Pillow Support

Using a pillow that does not provide adequate support can also be a culprit behind shoulder pain. A pillow should help maintain the natural alignment of your spine and shoulders, preventing unnecessary strain on the muscles and joints.

Contributing Factors


As we age, our joints and muscles tend to weaken, making us more susceptible to shoulder pain. Age-related changes in the shoulder joint, such as arthritis, can also contribute to discomfort during sleep.

Previous Injuries

Previous injuries or trauma to the shoulder can leave lasting effects, leading to chronic pain. The stress placed on the shoulder while sleeping can exacerbate these injuries and cause discomfort.

Overuse of Shoulder

Overusing the shoulder joint through repetitive tasks or intense physical activities can lead to inflammation and pain. Resting the shoulder and avoiding overuse is crucial in maintaining its health and preventing discomfort.

Diet and Inflammation

Inflammation in the body can contribute to shoulder pain. Consuming an unhealthy diet high in processed foods, sugar, and trans fats can lead to chronic inflammation. It is important to consume a well-balanced diet with anti-inflammatory foods to reduce the risk of shoulder pain.

Effects of Shoulder Pain

Disrupted Sleep

Shoulder pain can disrupt your sleep, causing frequent awakenings throughout the night. The discomfort can prevent you from finding a comfortable position, leading to restless sleep and fatigue.

Decreased Quality of Life

Living with shoulder pain can significantly decrease your overall quality of life. It may limit your ability to engage in daily activities, hobbies, and even affect your emotional well-being. Finding relief from shoulder pain is essential for restoring a fulfilling life.

Limited Range of Motion

When shoulders are in pain, it can limit your range of motion. Simple tasks such as reaching for objects or lifting can become challenging and painful. Regaining full range of motion is crucial for maintaining independence and functionality.

Causes and Remedies for Shoulder Pain After Sleeping on Your Back

Impacted Daily Activities

Shoulder pain can affect your ability to perform daily activities such as dressing, cooking, or even driving. The constant discomfort and limited mobility can hinder your productivity and independence.

Choosing the Right Pillow

Consider Your Sleeping Position

When choosing a pillow for shoulder pain, it is essential to consider your sleeping position. Different sleeping positions require different pillow support to maintain proper alignment and reduce strain on the shoulders.

Opt for Supportive Materials

Look for pillows made with supportive materials that can help alleviate shoulder pain. Memory foam pillows or pillows with gel-infused technology can provide excellent support and conform to your body shape, relieving pressure on the shoulders.

Adjustable Loft and Firmness

Choosing a pillow with adjustable loft and firmness allows you to customize the support based on your individual needs. This flexibility ensures that your neck and shoulders are properly supported, reducing the risk of pain.

Consult with a Specialist

If you experience chronic shoulder pain, it may be beneficial to consult with a specialist such as a chiropractor or physical therapist. They can assess your specific needs and recommend the best pillow type and shape to alleviate your shoulder pain.

Sleeping Positions and Their Effects

Back Sleeping

Sleeping on your back is generally considered a favorable position for your spine and shoulders. However, it can still contribute to shoulder pain if not properly supported. Placing a small pillow or roll beneath your shoulder can help maintain proper alignment and alleviate any discomfort.

Side Sleeping

Side sleeping is a common position that can also contribute to shoulder pain if not done correctly. Ensure that your pillow adequately supports the space between your shoulder and head to prevent strain on the shoulder joint.

Stomach Sleeping

Sleeping on your stomach is generally not recommended for those with shoulder pain. This position can cause excessive rotation of the shoulder joint, leading to discomfort. If you prefer sleeping on your stomach, consider using a thin pillow or no pillow at all to minimize the strain on your shoulders.

Exercises and Stretches to Relieve Shoulder Pain

Shoulder Rolls

Performing shoulder rolls can help release tension and improve mobility in the shoulder joint. Sit or stand with your arms relaxed at your sides. Slowly roll your shoulders forward in a circular motion, then reverse the movement. Repeat this exercise for several rounds to loosen up the shoulder muscles.

Wall Push-ups

Wall push-ups are an effective exercise to strengthen the muscles that support the shoulder joint. Stand facing a wall, slightly further than arm’s length away. Place your hands on the wall at shoulder height and shoulder-width apart. Slowly bend your elbows and lean your body toward the wall, then push yourself back to the starting position. Repeat this exercise for a few sets, gradually increasing the number of repetitions.

Pendulum Stretch

The pendulum stretch can help increase the range of motion in the shoulder joint. Stand with your unaffected arm resting on a table or chair for support. Let your affected arm hang down and gently swing it back and forth in a circular motion. Gradually increase the size of the circles to stretch the shoulder muscles. Repeat this stretch for a few minutes on each side.

Causes and Remedies for Shoulder Pain After Sleeping on Your Back

Doorway Stretch

The doorway stretch targets the chest and shoulder muscles, providing relief from tightness and discomfort. Stand in a doorway with your arms bent at 90 degrees and forearms resting against the door frame. Step forward with one foot, keeping your arms in the same position. You should feel a gentle stretch across your chest and shoulders. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then release. Repeat this stretch a few times throughout the day.

Improving Sleep Habits

Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule

Establishing a consistent sleep schedule can help regulate your body’s internal clock and improve sleep quality. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This routine will train your body to prepare for sleep and wakefulness at specific times.

Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment

Creating a comfortable sleep environment is essential for achieving quality sleep. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature. Use blackout curtains, earplugs, or a white noise machine if necessary. Investing in a comfortable mattress and pillows can also significantly improve your sleep.

Practice Relaxation Techniques

Engaging in relaxation techniques before bed can help calm your mind and prepare your body for sleep. Try deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation. You can also establish a bedtime routine that includes activities such as reading or taking a warm bath to promote relaxation.

Avoid Stimulants Before Bed

Avoid consuming stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine close to bedtime, as they can interfere with your sleep. Try to limit your intake of these substances in the afternoon and evening to ensure a restful night’s sleep.

Seeking Professional Help

Visit a Physiotherapist

If your shoulder pain persists or becomes severe, it is important to seek professional help. A physiotherapist can evaluate your condition, provide targeted treatments, and recommend exercises and stretches to alleviate your shoulder pain.

Consider Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medical practice that involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body. It has been shown to provide relief for various types of pain, including shoulder pain. Consider consulting with a licensed acupuncturist to explore this alternative treatment option.

Explore Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can be beneficial for relieving shoulder pain and promoting relaxation. A trained massage therapist can target the muscles and soft tissues surrounding the shoulder, helping to reduce tension and improve mobility. Regular massage sessions may help alleviate shoulder pain and prevent future discomfort.

Consult with an Orthopedic Specialist

If your shoulder pain is severe or accompanied by other symptoms such as swelling or limited mobility, it is advisable to consult with an orthopedic specialist. They can assess your condition, order necessary diagnostic tests, and provide appropriate treatment options to address the underlying cause of your shoulder pain.

Preventing Shoulder Pain

Maintain Proper Posture

Maintaining proper posture throughout the day, especially when sitting at a desk or using electronic devices, can help prevent shoulder pain. Sit up straight, avoid slouching, and keep your shoulders relaxed and pulled back. Consider using an ergonomic chair and adjusting your workstation to promote good posture.

Strengthen Shoulder Muscles

Regularly engaging in exercises that target the muscles surrounding the shoulders can help strengthen and stabilize the joint. Include exercises such as shoulder presses, lateral raises, and rows in your fitness routine. Start with light weights and gradually increase the resistance as your strength improves.

Take Regular Breaks from Repetitive Tasks

If your daily activities involve repetitive movements that put strain on your shoulders, it is important to take regular breaks. Give your shoulders and muscles time to rest and recover to prevent overuse injuries. Stretching or performing gentle range-of-motion exercises during breaks can also help alleviate tension.

Avoid Lifting Heavy Objects

Lifting heavy objects improperly can place excessive strain on the shoulder joint and lead to injury. When lifting, use your legs instead of your shoulders, and keep the object close to your body. If possible, ask for assistance or use equipment to aid in lifting heavy loads.

Changing Sleep Position

Using Pillows as Support

You can use pillows strategically to provide support and alleviate shoulder pain while changing sleep positions. Placing a pillow between your knees when sleeping on your side or beneath your knees when sleeping on your back can help maintain proper alignment and reduce strain on the shoulders.

Gradual Position Change

If you are used to sleeping in a specific position that causes shoulder pain, consider gradually transitioning to a new sleep position. Start by slightly adjusting your body’s position each night until you become comfortable in the new position. This gradual change can help your body adjust without causing discomfort.

Foam Wedges and Bolsters

Foam wedges and bolsters can be helpful in adjusting your position and providing additional support. Placing a wedge or bolster beneath your upper body can elevate your torso slightly, reducing strain on the shoulders. Experiment with different sizes and positions to find the most comfortable setup for you.

Investing in a Body Pillow

A body pillow can provide full-body support, especially if you tend to move around during sleep. This type of pillow can help align your spine and shoulders, reducing the risk of discomfort. Choose a body pillow with adjustable fill or contouring features to ensure optimal support for your individual needs.

By understanding the causes of shoulder pain, implementing exercises and stretches to alleviate discomfort, improving sleep habits, seeking professional help when necessary, and taking preventive measures, you can effectively manage and prevent shoulder pain. Remember to listen to your body, make necessary adjustments, and prioritize your shoulder health for a pain-free and restful sleep experience.

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