27 May 2024
Learn how to relieve shoulder pain while sleeping. Discover strategies such as adjusting your sleeping position, using supportive pillows, and applying heat or cold therapy. Wake up refreshed and pain-free!

Having shoulder pain while trying to sleep can be incredibly frustrating and disruptive to your sleep routine. Whether it’s from an injury, poor sleeping position, or an underlying condition, the discomfort can often make it difficult to find a comfortable position. However, there are several simple and effective strategies that can help alleviate shoulder pain and allow you to get a good night’s rest. By adjusting your sleeping position, using supportive pillows, applying heat or cold therapy, and practicing gentle stretches, you can find relief and wake up feeling refreshed and pain-free. Say goodbye to restless nights and hello to peaceful sleep!

How to Relieve Shoulder Pain While Sleeping

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain While Sleeping

Sleeping position

The position in which you sleep can greatly contribute to shoulder pain. If you sleep on your side and place weight directly on your shoulder, it can cause discomfort and even lead to pain. Similarly, sleeping on your stomach with your arm stretched overhead can put stress on your shoulder joint and result in pain.

Rotator cuff injury

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. When these muscles or tendons are injured, it can cause pain, weakness, and limited range of motion. Rotator cuff injuries can occur from repetitive overhead motions, traumatic events, or simply from wear and tear over time.

Frozen shoulder

Also known as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. It can make sleeping uncomfortable and may lead to difficulty in performing daily activities. Frozen shoulder typically occurs when the shoulder capsule thickens and becomes tight, restricting movement.

Shoulder impingement syndrome

Shoulder impingement occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff and the bursa become compressed between the bones of the shoulder. This can result in inflammation, pain, and restricted movement. Certain sleeping positions can exacerbate shoulder impingement, leading to discomfort during sleep.


Arthritis is a condition that causes inflammation and pain in the joints. In the shoulder, arthritis can affect the cartilage, causing it to wear down and result in pain and stiffness. Sleeping on an arthritic shoulder can intensify these symptoms and contribute to shoulder pain.


Bursitis refers to the inflammation of the bursae, which are small, fluid-filled sacs that cushion the bones, tendons, and muscles around joints. When the bursae in the shoulder become irritated or inflamed, it leads to bursitis. Sleeping on an affected shoulder can exacerbate the pain associated with this condition.

How to Relieve Shoulder Pain While Sleeping

Tips for Relieving Shoulder Pain While Sleeping

Finding the Right Sleeping Position

To alleviate shoulder pain while sleeping, it’s important to find a position that reduces pressure on the affected shoulder. Sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees can help align your spine and relieve strain on your shoulder. Alternatively, sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs can also help distribute weight more evenly and reduce shoulder discomfort.

Using Additional Support

Using additional support can significantly alleviate shoulder pain. Consider using a shoulder brace or a supportive mattress that provides cushioning and proper alignment. A body pillow can be placed strategically to support your body and prevent twisting or turning that might aggravate your shoulder. Additionally, a cervical pillow can help maintain proper neck alignment while you sleep.

Using a Pillow

A well-positioned pillow can make a big difference in relieving shoulder pain. Choose a pillow that is neither too firm nor too soft, providing adequate support to your neck and shoulders. Place the pillow in a way that allows your head and neck to rest comfortably, maintaining a neutral spine. If you have shoulder pain on one side, try placing a pillow under your arm to take pressure off the affected shoulder.

Applying Ice or Heat

Applying ice or heat can help alleviate shoulder pain and reduce inflammation. Ice packs can be applied for 15-20 minutes at a time to the affected area to numb the pain and reduce swelling. Heat therapy, such as using a hot water bottle or a heating pad, can help relax the muscles and increase blood flow to promote healing. Alternating between ice and heat can provide added relief.

Stretching Exercises

Incorporating stretching exercises into your daily routine can help improve flexibility and reduce shoulder pain. Some effective stretches for shoulder pain include the pendulum stretch, cross-body stretch, behind-the-back stretch, shoulder rolls, and doorway stretch. These exercises help to increase the range of motion in your shoulder and help alleviate stiffness while sleeping.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can be highly beneficial for addressing underlying issues causing shoulder pain. A physical therapist can design a personalized exercise program to strengthen the muscles around your shoulder and improve stability. Therapies such as range of motion exercises, strengthening exercises, massage therapy, ultrasound therapy, and electrical stimulation may be recommended by your therapist.


Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen, can be effective in managing shoulder pain. Topical creams or ointments, containing ingredients like menthol or capsaicin, can provide localized relief. In more severe cases, your doctor may prescribe stronger pain medication or corticosteroid injections to help alleviate shoulder pain.

Avoiding Overhead Activities

To prevent exacerbating your shoulder pain, it’s advisable to avoid or modify activities that require reaching overhead or repetitive arm movements. These movements can further strain the shoulder joint and contribute to discomfort. If you’re unsure about which activities to avoid or modify, consider consulting a healthcare professional who specializes in shoulder injuries to get personalized advice.

Improving Posture

Poor posture can contribute to shoulder pain while sleeping. By maintaining good posture throughout the day, you can help reduce stress on your shoulder joint. Pay attention to sitting and standing up straight, keeping your shoulders relaxed and not slumping forward. Engaging in exercises or activities that strengthen your back and core muscles can also help improve posture.

Seeking Medical Advice

If your shoulder pain persists or worsens despite trying various home remedies, it’s essential to consult a medical professional. They can assess the underlying cause of your shoulder pain through a physical examination and diagnostic tests such as X-rays or MRI scans. Based on their findings, they can recommend appropriate treatment options, which may include medication, physical therapy, or, in severe cases, surgery.

Remember, everyone’s experience with shoulder pain while sleeping may vary, and it’s crucial to find the combination of tips and techniques that work best for you. By actively addressing the causes and adopting strategies to relieve shoulder pain, you can promote better sleep and improve your overall quality of life.

How to Relieve Shoulder Pain While Sleeping

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