24 May 2024
Discover practical tips and techniques to avoid shoulder pain while sleeping. Say goodbye to restless nights and wake up pain-free! Whether you sleep on your side, back, or stomach, we've got you covered.

If you’ve ever experienced the discomfort of waking up with aching shoulders after a night’s sleep, you’re not alone. Many people unknowingly put their shoulders in positions during sleep that can lead to pain and discomfort. But fear not, because in this article, you will discover some practical tips and techniques on how to avoid shoulder pain while sleeping. So say goodbye to those restless nights and wake up feeling refreshed and pain-free! Whether you sleep on your side, back, or stomach, we’ve got you covered with simple adjustments and expert advice that will have you sleeping like a baby in no time.

Evaluate Your Sleeping Position

How to Avoid Shoulder Pain While Sleeping

Back Sleeping

Sleeping on your back is generally considered a good sleeping position for maintaining optimal spinal alignment. When you sleep on your back, your spine, neck, and head are in a neutral position, which can help minimize the risk of shoulder pain. However, it’s important to ensure that you have proper support for your neck and head to avoid straining your shoulder muscles or joints.

Side Sleeping

Side sleeping is another common sleeping position that can be comfortable for many individuals. It can help alleviate snoring and reduce the risk of sleep apnea. However, improper alignment can lead to shoulder pain. To sleep comfortably on your side without causing shoulder strain, it’s important to properly support your head, neck, and shoulders with the right pillow and mattress.

Stomach Sleeping

Sleeping on your stomach is generally not recommended as it can cause strain on your neck and shoulders. When you sleep on your stomach, your head is typically turned to one side, which can lead to neck and shoulder discomfort. If you prefer sleeping on your stomach, it’s crucial to choose a supportive mattress and pillow to minimize the risk of shoulder pain.

Choose the Right Mattress and Pillow

Mattress Firmness

Selecting the right mattress firmness is crucial for maintaining proper spinal alignment and avoiding shoulder pain. The level of firmness that works best for you will depend on your personal preferences and any existing shoulder conditions. Generally, a medium-firm mattress is recommended as it provides a balance of support and cushioning.

Pillow Height and Firmness

When it comes to choosing the right pillow, both height and firmness play a significant role in preventing shoulder pain. Your pillow should support the natural curve of your neck and keep your head aligned with your spine. A pillow that is too high or too low can lead to improper alignment and strain on the shoulders. Consider using a pillow specifically designed for side or back sleepers to provide adequate support.

Maintain Proper Spinal Alignment

Back Sleeping Alignment

If you prefer sleeping on your back, it’s important to maintain proper spinal alignment. Place a pillow under your neck and head to provide support and ensure that your spine is in a neutral position. Additionally, consider placing a small pillow or rolled-up towel under your knees to further support your lower back and hips.

Side Sleeping Alignment

When sleeping on your side, it’s crucial to align your spine properly to prevent shoulder pain. Place a supportive pillow between your knees to keep your hips aligned and reduce strain on your shoulders. Make sure the pillow you choose fills the gap between your head and shoulder to maintain proper alignment.

Stomach Sleeping Alignment

If you find it comfortable to sleep on your stomach, it’s important to minimize strain on your shoulders. Use a thin pillow or no pillow at all to keep your head and neck in line with your spine. Placing a pillow under your hips can also help maintain better alignment and reduce stress on your shoulders.

Use Additional Support

How to Avoid Shoulder Pain While Sleeping

Shoulder-Specific Pillows

If you frequently experience shoulder pain while sleeping, consider investing in a shoulder-specific pillow. These pillows are designed to accommodate the shoulder, providing extra support and relieving pressure. They can help promote proper alignment and reduce the risk of shoulder pain during the night.

Body Pillows

Body pillows can be beneficial for individuals who prefer to sleep on their side or need extra support to alleviate shoulder pain. These long, cylindrical pillows can be hugged or placed between the legs to maintain proper spinal alignment and reduce strain on the shoulders. Body pillows can also be used to support your back if you suffer from lower back pain.

Towel Roll

If you’re looking for a simple and cost-effective way to provide extra support during sleep, a towel roll can be helpful. Roll up a towel and place it under your neck or between your shoulder blades to provide additional cushioning and promote proper alignment. This method can be particularly useful for back sleepers.

Manage Shoulder Pain Before Bedtime

Stretching Exercises

Incorporating stretching exercises into your daily routine can help alleviate shoulder pain before bedtime. Gentle stretches targeting the shoulder muscles can improve flexibility and reduce muscle tension. Consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist to learn specific exercises that can effectively address your shoulder pain.

Heat Therapy

Applying heat to your shoulder before bed can help relax the muscles and relieve pain. Use a heating pad, warm towel, or hot water bottle and apply it to the affected area for 15-20 minutes. Heat therapy can increase blood flow to the shoulder, promote healing, and reduce discomfort.

Cold Therapy

In some cases, cold therapy may be more effective in managing shoulder pain. Applying a cold pack or ice wrapped in a towel to the affected shoulder can help reduce inflammation and numb the area. Remember to limit the application to 15-20 minutes at a time and always use a barrier, such as a towel, to protect your skin from direct contact with the cold pack.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relief

If shoulder pain persists and affects your sleep quality, over-the-counter pain relief medications can provide temporary relief. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium, can help reduce pain and inflammation. However, it’s important to follow the recommended dosage and consult with a healthcare professional if the pain persists or worsens.

Improve Bedtime Habits

Avoid Excessive Phone Usage Before Bed

The blue light emitted from electronic devices, such as phones or tablets, can interfere with your sleep quality. Make an effort to limit your screen time before bed to promote better sleep. Instead, engage in relaxing activities such as reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing.

How to Avoid Shoulder Pain While Sleeping

Create a Relaxing Sleep Environment

Your sleep environment plays a significant role in your overall sleep quality. Create a calming and comfortable atmosphere in your bedroom to promote restful sleep. Keep the room cool, dark, and quiet. Consider using blackout curtains, earplugs, or a white noise machine to minimize disturbances that can disrupt your sleep.

Establish a Bedtime Routine

Having a consistent bedtime routine can signal your body that it’s time to sleep and help you relax before bed. Establish a routine that incorporates relaxing activities such as reading, taking a warm shower, or practicing meditation. Avoid any stimulating or stressful activities close to bedtime, as they can make it harder to fall asleep.

Practice Good Posture During The Day

Sit and Stand with Proper Alignment

Maintaining good posture throughout the day can alleviate shoulder pain and prevent further strain on the muscles and joints. When sitting or standing, ensure that your shoulders are relaxed, your back is straight, and your head is aligned with your spine. Avoid slouching or hunching forward, as these positions can contribute to shoulder discomfort.

Take Breaks to Move and Stretch

Sitting or staying in one position for extended periods can contribute to shoulder pain. Take regular breaks throughout the day to stand up, move around, and perform stretching exercises. These short breaks can help reduce muscle tension, improve circulation, and prevent stiffness in your shoulders.

Seek Professional Help

Physical Therapy

If shoulder pain persists or significantly impacts your daily life, consider seeking professional help from a physical therapist. They can assess your condition, provide targeted exercises and stretches, and guide you in improving overall shoulder health. Physical therapy can help reduce pain, increase range of motion, and restore functionality.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractors specialize in the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions and can provide targeted adjustments to relieve shoulder pain. They can assess your posture, spine, and shoulder alignment to identify and address any underlying issues. Chiropractic care can help improve shoulder mobility, reduce pain, and promote overall well-being.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can help alleviate shoulder pain by reducing muscle tension and stimulating blood flow to the affected area. A skilled therapist can focus on loosening tight muscles, improving flexibility, and promoting relaxation. Regular massage sessions can provide significant relief from shoulder pain and improve your overall sleep quality.

Address Underlying Medical Conditions


If you have been diagnosed with arthritis in your shoulder joint, it’s important to address this underlying condition to manage shoulder pain. Working closely with a healthcare professional or rheumatologist can help develop a comprehensive treatment plan that may include medication, physical therapy, lifestyle modifications, and self-care techniques.


Bursitis occurs when the small fluid-filled sacs in your shoulders become inflamed. To manage bursitis-related shoulder pain, it’s important to treat the underlying inflammation. Resting the affected shoulder, applying ice or heat therapy, and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication as directed by a healthcare professional can help alleviate symptoms.

Rotator Cuff Injury

Rotator cuff injuries can cause significant shoulder pain and limit mobility. Seeking medical attention is important to accurately diagnose the injury and determine the appropriate treatment plan. Treatment options may include physical therapy, rest, medication, or in severe cases, surgical intervention. Following the recommended treatment plan can improve shoulder function and reduce pain.

Make Adjustments as Necessary

Reevaluate Sleeping Position

If you continue to experience shoulder pain while sleeping, it may be necessary to reevaluate your sleeping position. Experiment with different positions and combinations of pillows to find the most comfortable and supportive option for your shoulders. It may take some trial and error, but finding the right sleeping position can significantly reduce shoulder pain.

Adjust Pillow Height and Firmness

Your pillow choice can greatly impact your sleeping experience and shoulder health. If your current pillow doesn’t provide adequate support or is causing discomfort, consider adjusting the height or firmness. Try different pillows that are specifically designed for your preferred sleeping position, and pay attention to how they affect your shoulder pain.

Try Different Sleeping Aids

In some cases, using sleeping aids such as mattress toppers, shoulder support braces, or specialized shoulder pillows can help alleviate shoulder pain. These aids are designed to provide extra support and can be beneficial for individuals with chronic shoulder pain. Explore different options and consult with healthcare professionals or sleep experts to find the right solution for your specific needs.

Remember, everyone’s shoulder pain is unique, and finding the right solution may require a combination of approaches. It’s important to listen to your body, prioritize sleep quality, and seek professional advice when necessary. By evaluating your sleeping position, choosing the right mattress and pillow, maintaining proper spinal alignment, using additional support, and managing any underlying medical conditions, you can significantly reduce shoulder pain and enjoy restful nights of rejuvenating sleep.

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