27 May 2024
Learn effective tips to relieve shoulder pain caused by sleeping on your side. Adjust your sleeping position, use supportive pillows, and try stretching exercises for relief. Say goodbye to morning pain and hello to a restful night's sleep!

You wake up with aching shoulders, and it hits you – another night of uncomfortable sleep on your side. Shoulder pain from sleeping on it can be incredibly frustrating, but fear not, there are ways to find relief. In this article, you will discover effective tips and techniques to alleviate shoulder pain caused by sleeping on your side. From adjusting your sleeping position to incorporating gentle exercises, you will finally be able to wake up feeling refreshed and free from shoulder discomfort. Say goodbye to morning pain and hello to a restful night’s sleep!

How to Relieve Shoulder Pain from Sleeping on It

Causes of Shoulder Pain from Sleeping on It

Sleeping on the side

One of the common causes of shoulder pain due to sleeping position is sleeping on the side. When you sleep on your side, your shoulder can become compressed and be subjected to excessive pressure. This can lead to discomfort and pain in the shoulder joint. Additionally, the weight of your body pressing down on the shoulder can cause impingement of the tendons and muscles, further contributing to the pain.

Sleeping on the stomach

Sleeping on your stomach may seem comfortable, but it can put extra strain on your shoulder joint. When you lie facedown, your shoulder is forced into an unnatural position, causing it to rotate inward. This can lead to muscle imbalances and tightness in the shoulder, resulting in pain and discomfort.

Sleeping on an uncomfortable surface

Another factor that can contribute to shoulder pain is sleeping on an uncomfortable surface. If your mattress or pillow is too firm or too soft, it can cause your body to be misaligned while you sleep. This misalignment can put stress on your shoulder joint, leading to pain and discomfort.

Sleeping with improper pillow support

The type of pillow you use can also play a role in shoulder pain. If your pillow is too high or too low, it can cause your neck and shoulder to be in an awkward position while you sleep. This can lead to strain on the muscles and ligaments in the shoulder, resulting in pain and stiffness.

Preventing Shoulder Pain from Sleeping on It

Sleeping on the back

If you tend to experience shoulder pain from sleeping on your side or stomach, try sleeping on your back instead. Sleeping on your back helps to distribute your body weight evenly, reducing the pressure on your shoulder joint. Use a pillow that supports the natural curve of your neck to ensure proper alignment.

Using a supportive pillow

Choosing the right pillow is crucial in preventing shoulder pain. Look for a pillow that provides adequate support for your neck and keeps your head and spine aligned while you sleep. Memory foam pillows or pillows with adjustable loft can be great options to accommodate your specific needs and promote good posture.

Adjusting sleep positions

If you find it challenging to sleep on your back, try adjusting your sleep position on your side. Place a pillow between your knees to help align your spine and take pressure off your shoulder. Alternatively, you can try hugging a body pillow to prevent your shoulder from rolling forward and causing discomfort.

Using a mattress topper

If you suspect that your mattress is the culprit behind your shoulder pain, consider using a mattress topper to improve its comfort level. A mattress topper can add an extra layer of cushioning and support, relieving pressure points and promoting a more comfortable sleep surface for your shoulders.

How to Relieve Shoulder Pain from Sleeping on It

Stretching Exercises for Shoulder Pain Relief

Wall stretch

Stand facing a wall and extend your arm straight out, placing your hand against the wall at shoulder height. Slowly rotate your body away from the wall, keeping your arm straight and feeling a gentle stretch in your shoulder. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Cross-body stretch

Bring one arm across your chest and use your other arm to pull it closer to your body, feeling a stretch in the back of your shoulder. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Overhead stretch

Raise one arm overhead, bending at the elbow, and reach behind your head. Use your other hand to grasp the stretching arm’s elbow and gently pull it toward the opposite side, feeling a stretch in your shoulder. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

External rotation stretch

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Hold a small weight or resistance band in one hand and keep it close to your body. Slowly rotate your arm outward, away from your body, against the resistance of the weight or band. Hold for a few seconds and repeat on the other side.

Strengthening Exercises for Shoulder Pain Relief

Shoulder blade retraction

Sit or stand with your arms by your sides. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as if trying to hold a pencil between them. Hold for a few seconds and release. Repeat for several reps to strengthen the muscles that support your shoulder joint.

Internal and external rotation with resistance band

Attach a resistance band to a doorknob or other sturdy anchor point at waist height. Hold the band in one hand and stand with your side facing the anchor point. Keep your elbow at a 90-degree angle and rotate your forearm inward (toward your abdomen) against the resistance of the band. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for several reps. Then, rotate your forearm outward (away from your abdomen) against the resistance band and repeat for several reps on the other side.

Prone rows

Lie face down on an exercise bench or stability ball, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Keep your arms straight and slowly raise them out to the sides, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Lower the weights back down and repeat for several reps.


Assume a push-up position on the floor or using an exercise ball. Keep your body straight and lower yourself down by bending your elbows. Push back up to the starting position and repeat for several reps to strengthen your chest, shoulders, and arms.

How to Relieve Shoulder Pain from Sleeping on It

Heat and Cold Therapy for Shoulder Pain Relief

Applying heat

Applying heat to your shoulder can help relax tense muscles and increase blood flow to the area, reducing pain and stiffness. You can use a heating pad, warm towel, or take a warm shower to apply heat. Be cautious not to use excessive heat or apply it directly to your skin to avoid burns.

Using cold therapy

Cold therapy, such as ice packs or cold compresses, can help reduce inflammation and numb pain in the shoulder. Wrap an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas in a towel and apply it to the affected area for about 15 minutes. Repeat every few hours as needed.

Massage Techniques for Shoulder Pain Relief

Self-massage with a tennis ball

Place a tennis ball between your shoulder and a wall, applying gentle pressure against the ball. Move your body back and forth, rolling the ball along the muscles of your shoulder for a soothing self-massage. Adjust the pressure as necessary to alleviate tension and knots.

Deep tissue massage

Consider getting a deep tissue massage from a skilled massage therapist to target the deeper layers of muscles in your shoulder. Deep tissue massage can help release tension and improve blood circulation, promoting healing and relieving shoulder pain.

Trigger point therapy

Trigger point therapy involves applying targeted pressure to specific trigger points in the shoulder muscles to release tension and promote pain relief. You can use your fingers, a massage ball, or a foam roller to apply pressure to these trigger points, focusing on any areas of discomfort or tightness.

Improving Sleep Habits for Shoulder Pain Relief

Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule

Establishing a consistent sleep schedule can help regulate your body’s internal clock and promote better sleep quality. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends. This routine can improve the overall quality of your sleep, allowing your body to better recover from daily activities, including shoulder pain.

Creating a comfortable sleep environment

Ensure that your bedroom is conducive to sleep by creating a comfortable environment. Keep your room cool, dark, and quiet to promote a restful night’s sleep. Use blackout curtains or an eye mask to block out any light. Invest in a supportive mattress and comfortable bedding that aligns with your sleep preferences.

Avoiding electronic devices before bed

The blue light emitted by electronic devices can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate sleep-wake cycles. Avoid using smartphones, tablets, or computers for at least an hour before bedtime to allow your body to prepare for sleep naturally. Instead, engage in relaxing activities such as reading a book or practicing relaxation techniques.

Over-the-Counter Remedies for Shoulder Pain Relief

Pain relievers

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help alleviate mild to moderate shoulder pain. Follow the recommended dosage and instructions provided on the packaging and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any underlying medical conditions or concerns.

Topical analgesics

Topical analgesics, such as creams, gels, or patches containing ingredients like menthol or capsaicin, can provide temporary relief from shoulder pain. These products work by numbing the skin and underlying tissues, reducing pain sensations. Follow the instructions on the product packaging for proper application and usage.

Seeking Professional Help for Shoulder Pain Relief

Physical therapy

If shoulder pain persists or worsens despite home remedies, seeking help from a physical therapist can be beneficial. A trained physical therapist can evaluate your shoulder’s condition and design a personalized treatment plan consisting of targeted exercises and therapeutic modalities to relieve pain, improve mobility, and prevent further injury.

Chiropractic care

A visit to a chiropractor can help identify and address any underlying spinal or joint misalignments that may be contributing to your shoulder pain. Chiropractic adjustments aim to restore proper alignment, reducing stress on the shoulder joint and promoting pain relief. The chiropractor may also recommend specific exercises or stretches to support your shoulder’s health.


Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese practice, involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points along the body to stimulate healing and relieve pain. Seeking acupuncture treatment for shoulder pain can help restore the body’s energy flow and promote natural pain relief. Be sure to consult with a certified acupuncturist for safe and effective treatment.

When to Consult a Doctor for Shoulder Pain

Persistent pain

If your shoulder pain persists for an extended period or becomes increasingly severe, it is essential to consult a doctor. Persistent pain may indicate an underlying medical condition, such as a rotator cuff tear or frozen shoulder, which may require further medical intervention.

Limited range of motion

If you experience a significant decrease in your shoulder’s range of motion, such as difficulty raising your arm or reaching behind your back, it is advisable to seek medical attention. Limited range of motion can be a sign of a more serious injury or condition that may require specialized care.

Numbness or tingling in the arm

Shoulder pain accompanied by numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arm could indicate nerve compression or pinched nerves. These symptoms may be a sign of a herniated disc or other nerve-related issues. It is crucial to consult a healthcare professional promptly to prevent further damage and receive appropriate treatment.

In conclusion, shoulder pain from sleeping on it can be caused by various factors such as sleeping on the side or stomach, discomfort from an improper surface or pillow, and inadequate pillow support. To prevent shoulder pain, adjusting sleep positions, using a supportive pillow, and considering a mattress topper can help alleviate discomfort. Stretching and strengthening exercises, heat and cold therapy, as well as massage techniques, can provide relief for existing shoulder pain. Additionally, improving sleep habits, utilizing over-the-counter remedies, and seeking professional help when needed are all vital steps towards finding long-term relief. Remember to consult a doctor if pain persists, range of motion is limited, or if you experience numbness or tingling in your arm, as these symptoms may indicate a more serious underlying condition. With the right strategies and a comprehensive approach, you can effectively address and alleviate shoulder pain from sleeping on it.

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