24 May 2024
Learn how to relieve shoulder pain from sleeping. Discover simple solutions, including adjusting your sleeping position and incorporating stretches, to wake up refreshed and pain-free.

Have you experienced waking up with a throbbing shoulder ache that leaves you feeling uncomfortable and restless throughout the day? If so, you’re not alone. Many individuals have encountered the frustrating challenge of shoulder pain from sleeping, and this article is here to provide you with simple solutions to relieve and prevent this discomfort. From adjusting your sleeping position to incorporating gentle stretches into your morning routine, you’ll discover effective techniques to help you say goodbye to shoulder pain and wake up feeling refreshed and pain-free.

How to Relieve Shoulder Pain from Sleeping

Causes of Shoulder Pain from Sleeping

Sleeping position

One of the main causes of shoulder pain from sleeping is an improper sleeping position. If you consistently sleep in a position that puts strain on your shoulder joint, such as sleeping on your side with your arm under your head, it can lead to discomfort and pain.

Mattress and pillow

The quality of your mattress and pillow can also contribute to shoulder pain while sleeping. A mattress or pillow that is too firm or too soft may not provide adequate support to your shoulder, causing it to bear more weight and pressure than it should.

Overuse or injury

Shoulder pain from sleeping can also be a result of overusing your shoulder joint or sustaining an injury. If you engage in activities that require repetitive shoulder motions or have recently suffered a shoulder injury, sleeping in a way that exacerbates the issue can lead to pain and discomfort.

Arthritis or bursitis

Arthritis or bursitis, inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints, can also cause shoulder pain while sleeping. These conditions can make the shoulder joint more sensitive and susceptible to discomfort, especially when pressure is applied during sleep.

Preventing Shoulder Pain while Sleeping

Find the right sleeping position

To prevent shoulder pain while sleeping, it is important to find a sleeping position that minimizes strain on your shoulder joint. Sleeping on your back or non-affected side with a pillow for support can help align your shoulder properly and reduce the risk of pain.

Invest in a supportive mattress

A supportive mattress is crucial for maintaining a healthy sleeping posture and preventing shoulder pain. Look for a mattress that offers enough firmness to support your shoulders and spine while still providing comfortable cushioning.

Choose a suitable pillow

A suitable pillow can make a significant difference in preventing shoulder pain. Opt for a pillow that conforms to the natural curve of your neck and provides adequate support to your head and shoulders. Avoid pillows that are too high or too flat, as they can strain your shoulder muscles.

Use a pillow between the legs

Placing a pillow between your legs while sleeping on your side can help align your spine and alleviate pressure on your shoulders. This additional support can promote better sleep and reduce the risk of waking up with shoulder pain.

Avoid sleeping on the affected shoulder

If you are experiencing shoulder pain, it is important to avoid sleeping directly on the affected shoulder. This can further aggravate the pain and delay the healing process. Instead, try sleeping on your back or non-affected side to give your shoulder a chance to rest and recover.

Exercises and Stretches to Relieve Shoulder Pain

Shoulder rolls

Shoulder rolls are a simple exercise that can help relieve tension and stiffness in the shoulder muscles. Stand or sit upright and slowly roll your shoulders forward in a circular motion. Repeat this exercise for several repetitions, then reverse the direction and roll your shoulders backward.

Arm circles

Arm circles help improve shoulder mobility and flexibility. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms straight out to your sides. Make small circles with your arms, gradually increasing the size of the circles. After a few repetitions, switch directions and rotate your arms in the opposite direction.

Pendulum exercises

Pendulum exercises are gentle pendulum-like movements of the affected arm to improve shoulder mobility and reduce pain. Stand with one hand on a table or a sturdy object for support. Allow your affected arm to hang down naturally, then gently swing it forward and backward in a pendulum-like motion. Repeat this exercise for several repetitions, then switch to side-to-side swings.

Cross-body stretch

The cross-body stretch targets the muscles in the back of your shoulder. Stand or sit upright and bring your affected arm across your body, using your other arm to gently pull it closer to your chest. Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds, then release and repeat on the other side.

Chest stretch

The chest stretch helps relieve tightness in the muscles of the chest and front of the shoulder. Stand in a doorway and bend your elbow at a 90-degree angle. Place your forearm on the doorframe and gently lean forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your shoulder and chest. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds, then switch arms and repeat.

Wall angels

Wall angels are a great exercise for improving shoulder posture and strengthening the muscles that support the shoulder blades. Stand with your back against a wall and raise your arms so that your elbows and wrists touch the wall. Slowly slide your arms up and down the wall, maintaining contact with the wall at all times. Repeat this exercise for several repetitions.

Doorway stretch

The doorway stretch targets the muscles in the back of the shoulder and can help alleviate shoulder pain. Stand in a doorway with your affected arm outstretched to the side, resting against the doorframe. Gently lean forward until you feel a stretch in the back of your shoulder. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds, then switch arms and repeat.

Hot and Cold Therapy for Shoulder Pain Relief

Applying a hot compress

Applying a hot compress to your shoulder can help relax the muscles, increase blood flow, and reduce pain and stiffness. Use a heating pad, warm towel, or hot water bottle and apply it to the affected area for about 15-20 minutes at a time. Be careful not to use excessive heat that may cause burns.

Using ice packs

Ice packs can be effective in reducing inflammation and numbing the area, providing relief from shoulder pain. Wrap an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables in a thin towel and apply it to the affected shoulder for about 15-20 minutes at a time. Take breaks in between to allow your skin to recover from the cold.

Alternating hot and cold therapy

Alternating between hot and cold therapy can help promote circulation and relieve shoulder pain. Start with a hot compress for about 15 minutes, then switch to a cold compress for about 10-15 minutes. Repeat this cycle a few times, ending with a cold compress. Make sure to always wrap the hot or cold source in a towel to avoid direct contact with your skin.

How to Relieve Shoulder Pain from Sleeping

Massage Techniques for Shoulder Pain Relief

Self-massage with a tennis ball

Self-massage with a tennis ball can help release tension and knots in the shoulder muscles. Stand next to a wall and place a tennis ball between your shoulder blade and the wall. Apply gentle pressure and roll the ball around the area, focusing on any tender spots. Continue for a few minutes, then switch to the other side.

Trigger point therapy

Trigger point therapy involves applying pressure to specific trigger points in the shoulder muscles to relieve pain and tension. Locate the trigger point by feeling for knots or tender spots in the shoulder area. Once you identify the trigger point, apply direct pressure using your fingertips or a massage tool for about 30 seconds to one minute. Release the pressure and repeat as needed.


Acupressure is a technique that involves applying pressure to specific points on the body to relieve pain and promote relaxation. To relieve shoulder pain, find the acupressure point known as GB21, located on the top of your shoulder between the base of your neck and the tip of your shoulder. Apply firm pressure with your fingertips or thumb and massage in a circular motion for a few minutes.

Over-the-Counter Medications

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium, can help reduce inflammation and alleviate shoulder pain. Follow the instructions on the packaging and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking other medications.

Topical analgesics

Topical analgesics, such as creams or gels containing menthol or capsaicin, can provide temporary relief from shoulder pain. Apply the topical analgesic to the affected area following the instructions on the packaging. Be cautious not to use too much or apply it to broken or irritated skin.

How to Relieve Shoulder Pain from Sleeping

When to Seek Medical Attention

Persistent or worsening pain

If your shoulder pain persists or worsens despite trying home remedies and self-care measures, it is important to seek medical attention. Persistent or worsening pain could indicate an underlying condition that requires medical intervention.

Inability to move or raise the arm

If you are unable to move or raise your arm due to shoulder pain, it may be a sign of a more serious injury or condition. Consult with a healthcare professional to determine the cause of your limited range of motion.

Numbness or tingling in the arm or hand

Shoulder pain accompanied by numbness or tingling in the arm or hand could be indicative of nerve involvement. This may require further evaluation and treatment by a healthcare professional.

Signs of infection

Shoulder pain associated with signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, warmth, or the presence of pus, should be evaluated by a healthcare professional. Infections may require prompt medical attention and treatment with antibiotics.

Fever or chills

If you experience shoulder pain accompanied by fever or chills, it may be a sign of an underlying infection or inflammatory condition. Seek medical attention as soon as possible to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.

Home Remedies for Shoulder Pain Relief

Rest and avoid strenuous activities

Giving your shoulder adequate rest is crucial for promoting healing and reducing pain. Avoid activities that strain your shoulder or exacerbate the pain, and allow yourself time to rest and recover.

Apply heat with a warm towel

Applying heat to the affected shoulder can help relax the muscles and alleviate pain. Use a warm towel, warm water bottle, or a heating pad and apply it to the area for about 15-20 minutes at a time. Avoid excessive heat that may lead to burns.

Take a warm shower

A warm shower can help soothe shoulder pain and promote relaxation. Allow the warm water to flow directly onto your shoulders, alternating between hot and cold water for added therapeutic benefits.

Practice relaxation techniques

Stress and tension can contribute to shoulder pain. Engaging in relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga, can help relieve stress and reduce muscle tension in the shoulders.

Use a heating pad or hot water bottle

Using a heating pad or hot water bottle on your shoulder can provide localized heat therapy and help alleviate pain. Wrap the heating pad or hot water bottle in a thin towel and apply it to your shoulder for about 15-20 minutes at a time.

Sleeping Tips for Shoulder Pain Relief

Use additional pillows for support

Adding extra pillows to your sleeping setup can help provide support and cushioning to your shoulders. Place pillows strategically to align your shoulders properly and reduce the strain on your affected shoulder.

Sleep on your back or non-affected side

Sleeping on your back or non-affected side can help alleviate shoulder pain by reducing pressure on the affected shoulder. Experiment with different sleeping positions to find the most comfortable one for your shoulder.

Try a reclining position

Sleeping in a reclining position, such as using an adjustable bed or propping yourself up with pillows, can take pressure off your shoulders and provide relief. This position allows for better elevation and support, reducing the risk of shoulder pain.

Use a body pillow for added alignment

Using a body pillow can help align your shoulders and provide additional support while you sleep. Place the body pillow between your legs when sleeping on your side, or hug it against your chest when sleeping on your back for added alignment and comfort.

Experiment with various sleeping aids

There are various sleeping aids available that can help relieve shoulder pain. Consider using shoulder braces or slings, which can provide support and immobilization during sleep. Additionally, certain specialized pillows or mattress toppers designed for shoulder pain relief may offer additional comfort and support.

Seeking Professional Help for Shoulder Pain Relief

Physical therapy

If shoulder pain persists or becomes chronic, seeking help from a physical therapist can be beneficial. A physical therapist can develop a customized treatment plan to address your specific shoulder pain and help you regain strength, flexibility, and range of motion.

Chiropractic care

Chiropractic care can be a non-invasive and drug-free option for shoulder pain relief. A chiropractor can perform manual adjustments to realign your spine and shoulder joints, helping alleviate pain and improve overall shoulder function.


Acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine practice, involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to alleviate pain and promote healing. Seeking acupuncture treatment from a trained and licensed practitioner may provide relief for shoulder pain.

In conclusion, shoulder pain from sleeping can be caused by factors such as improper sleeping positions, unsupportive mattresses and pillows, overuse or injury, and conditions like arthritis or bursitis. Fortunately, there are various ways to prevent and relieve shoulder pain, including finding the right sleeping position, investing in a supportive mattress, using suitable pillows, practicing exercises and stretches, applying hot and cold therapy, utilizing massage techniques, trying over-the-counter medications, and seeking professional help if necessary. By incorporating these strategies into your routine, you can reduce shoulder pain and improve your overall sleep quality.

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