23 May 2024
Learn how to sleep with shoulder pain and finally get the restful sleep you deserve. From adjusting your sleep position to using supportive pillows and reducing pain and inflammation, we've got you covered. Say goodbye to restless nights and wake up pain-free.

If you’re dealing with shoulder pain, you know how disruptive it can be to your sleep. Tossing and turning, struggling to find a comfortable position, and waking up with even more discomfort can make for miserable nights. In this article, we’ll share some helpful tips on how to sleep with shoulder pain so you can finally get the restful sleep you deserve. From proper pillow placement to sleep positions that alleviate pressure, we’ve got you covered. Say goodbye to waking up feeling like you’ve been carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, and hello to nights filled with peaceful sleep and pain-free mornings.

How to Sleep With Shoulder Pain

Table of Contents

Adjusting Your Sleeping Position

Sleep on your back

Sleeping on your back is generally considered the best sleeping position for shoulder pain. This position helps to distribute your body weight evenly and reduces pressure on the shoulders. To sleep on your back, use a supportive pillow that keeps your head and neck in alignment with your spine. This ensures proper support and reduces strain on your shoulders.

Use a supportive pillow

Choosing the right pillow can make a significant difference in alleviating shoulder pain while sleeping. A supportive pillow helps to maintain proper alignment of the neck, shoulders, and spine. Look for a pillow that is contoured and specifically designed for shoulder pain. These pillows are often made from memory foam or gel-infused materials, which provide excellent support and relieve pressure points.

Place a pillow under your arm

If sleeping on your back is not comfortable, try placing a pillow under the affected shoulder. This can help to provide extra support and reduce pressure on the shoulder joint. Experiment with different pillow sizes and positions to find the most comfortable setup for your specific needs. Remember to choose a pillow that is firm enough to maintain proper alignment, but not so firm that it causes discomfort.

Try sleeping on your side with a pillow between your arms

If you prefer to sleep on your side, placing a pillow between your arms can help to alleviate shoulder pain. This positioning helps to keep your shoulders in a neutral position and reduces the strain on the affected shoulder. Choose a medium-firm pillow that fills the gap between your shoulder and neck, providing proper support and alignment.

Elevate your upper body with an adjustable bed or pillows

Elevating your upper body can provide relief for shoulder pain by reducing pressure and tension on the affected area. If you have an adjustable bed, raise the head portion to a comfortable angle. Alternatively, you can achieve a similar effect by using multiple pillows to prop up your upper body. Make sure the pillows are supportive and placed strategically to maintain proper alignment of your shoulders, neck, and spine.

Supporting Your Shoulder During Sleep

Use a shoulder brace or immobilizer

If you have a specific shoulder injury or condition that requires stabilization during sleep, using a shoulder brace or immobilizer can be beneficial. These devices limit movement and provide support to the shoulder joint, ensuring proper alignment. Consult with your healthcare professional to determine if a shoulder brace or immobilizer is suitable for your specific needs.

Apply a heating pad or cold pack

Applying heat or cold therapy to the affected shoulder can help to reduce pain and inflammation. Heat therapy, such as using a heating pad or taking a warm shower, can help to relax muscles and improve blood circulation. Cold therapy, on the other hand, can numb the area and reduce swelling. Experiment with both methods to determine which provides the most relief for your shoulder pain.

Try using a shoulder support pillow

A shoulder support pillow is specially designed to provide targeted support and cushioning for the shoulder area. These pillows often have a cavity or cut-out section that allows your shoulder to rest comfortably without exerting pressure on the affected area. Consider using a shoulder support pillow if you find it difficult to maintain a comfortable sleeping position.

Consider using a weighted blanket

Weighted blankets have gained popularity for their ability to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. These blankets are filled with small beads or pellets, providing gentle pressure that mimics a comforting hug. The added weight can help to reduce restlessness and anxiety, allowing you to sleep more soundly and potentially alleviate shoulder pain.

Use extra pillows for support

If you have specific support needs for your shoulder, consider using extra pillows strategically placed to provide additional support and cushioning. For example, you can place a pillow under your affected shoulder to relieve pressure or use a pillow to prop up your arm to prevent it from rolling onto the sore shoulder. Experiment with different pillow configurations to find the most comfortable setup for you.

How to Sleep With Shoulder Pain

Reducing Pain and Inflammation

Apply ice or cold therapy

When you experience shoulder pain, applying ice or cold therapy can help to reduce inflammation and numb the area, providing temporary pain relief. Wrap an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables in a towel and apply it to the affected shoulder for 15-20 minutes at a time. Repeat this process several times a day, especially after activities that aggravate your shoulder.

Try heat therapy

Heat therapy can help to relax muscles, improve blood flow, and reduce stiffness and pain in the shoulder. You can use a heating pad, warm towel, or take a warm shower to apply heat to the affected area. Make sure to use a moderate heat level and avoid prolonged exposure to prevent burns or further irritation.

Consider using over-the-counter pain relievers

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can help to alleviate mild to moderate shoulder pain and reduce inflammation. Common NSAIDs include ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. Always follow the recommended dosage instructions and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns or pre-existing medical conditions that may interact with these medications.

Use topical creams or ointments

Topical creams or ointments can provide localized pain relief for shoulder discomfort. Look for products that contain ingredients like menthol, camphor, or capsaicin, as they can help to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Apply the cream or ointment directly to the affected area and gently massage it in. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after application to avoid accidentally transferring the product to sensitive areas, such as your eyes.

Opt for natural remedies

In addition to conventional pain relief options, some natural remedies may help to reduce shoulder pain and inflammation. These include herbal supplements like turmeric, ginger, and bromelain, which have anti-inflammatory properties. However, always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplements to ensure they are safe for you and won’t interact with any medications you may be taking.

Exercises and Stretches Before Bed

Perform shoulder stretches

Stretching exercises can help to increase flexibility, relieve muscle tension, and reduce shoulder pain before bed. Some simple shoulder stretches include arm circles, cross-body arm swings, and shoulder blade squeezes. Perform these stretches gently and slowly, avoiding any movements that cause pain or discomfort. Remember to breathe deeply and relax as you stretch.

Try gentle exercises for shoulder mobility

Engaging in gentle exercises that promote shoulder mobility can help to improve range of motion and reduce stiffness. Some examples of shoulder mobility exercises include pendulum swings, wall slides, and shoulder rolls. Start with a light warm-up, such as gentle shoulder rotations, and gradually increase the intensity as tolerated. It’s important to listen to your body and not push through any sharp or worsening pain.

Engage in relaxation techniques

Relaxation techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation, can help to calm the mind and relax the body before bed. Find a quiet and comfortable space, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Take slow, deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. As you exhale, imagine releasing any tension or stress from your body.

Practice deep breathing exercises

Deep breathing exercises can help to promote relaxation and reduce muscle tension, including in the shoulder area. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position and place one hand on your abdomen. Take slow, deep breaths, allowing your abdomen to rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale. Focus on the sensation of your breath and let go of any tension or thoughts that may arise.

Do yoga or Pilates before bed

Yoga and Pilates are gentle forms of exercise that can help to improve flexibility, strength, and reduce shoulder pain. Look for gentle, shoulder-friendly poses and movements that focus on stretching and strengthening the shoulder muscles. These practices can also help to relax the mind and promote a sense of overall well-being, setting the stage for a restful night’s sleep.

How to Sleep With Shoulder Pain

Creating a Sleep-Friendly Environment

Ensure your mattress and pillows provide adequate support

A supportive mattress and pillows are essential for maintaining proper spinal alignment and reducing shoulder pain during sleep. Invest in a mattress that offers adequate support for your body type and sleep preferences. Look for a pillow that provides proper neck support and aligns your spine in a neutral position. Avoid using pillows that are too flat or too high, as they can strain your neck and shoulders.

Keep the room cool and well-ventilated

Creating a cool and well-ventilated sleep environment can contribute to a more comfortable sleep experience. Optimal room temperature for sleep is typically between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit (15-19 degrees Celsius). Use fans, open windows, or air conditioning to regulate the temperature and airflow in your bedroom. This can help to prevent excessive sweating or discomfort that may worsen shoulder pain.

Eliminate noise and distractions

A quiet and peaceful sleep environment can enhance your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, especially if you’re experiencing shoulder pain. Remove or reduce any sources of noise or distractions, such as loud appliances or electronics. Consider using earplugs, white noise machines, or soothing nature sounds to drown out any unwanted noises and create a serene atmosphere.

Create a soothing bedtime routine

Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine can signal to your body and mind that it’s time to unwind and prepare for sleep. Engage in activities that promote relaxation, such as taking a warm bath, reading a book, practicing gentle stretching or meditation, or listening to calming music. Consistency is key, so try to follow a similar routine every night, even on weekends.

Use aromatherapy or essential oils for relaxation

Aromatherapy can be a powerful tool for promoting relaxation and quality sleep. Essential oils such as lavender, chamomile, and bergamot have calming properties that can help to reduce stress and ease muscle tension. Experiment with different oils and methods of use, such as diffusers, pillow sprays, or topical application. Remember to use high-quality, pure essential oils and follow the recommended guidelines for each oil.

Seeking Professional Help

Consult with a healthcare professional

If your shoulder pain persists or worsens despite at-home remedies, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional. They can assess your specific condition, provide a diagnosis, and recommend appropriate treatment options. They may refer you to a specialist, such as an orthopedic doctor or physical therapist, for further evaluation and targeted treatments.

See a physical therapist

A physical therapist can play a crucial role in diagnosing and treating shoulder pain. They can offer tailored exercise programs, manual therapy, and other techniques to improve shoulder mobility, reduce pain, and strengthen the surrounding muscles. Additionally, they can provide valuable guidance on proper posture, body mechanics, and ergonomic modifications that can alleviate shoulder pain both during sleep and throughout your daily activities.

Consider alternative therapies

In some cases, alternative therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, or massage therapy may provide relief for shoulder pain. These therapies focus on holistic approaches to address pain, promote healing, and improve overall well-being. However, it’s important to consult with a qualified practitioner and discuss any underlying conditions or concerns before trying alternative therapies.

Explore medical interventions

For severe and persistent shoulder pain, medical interventions may be necessary. These can include corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation, ultrasound therapy to promote healing, or in rare cases, surgery to repair damaged or torn structures in the shoulder joint. Consult with a healthcare professional to determine if medical interventions are appropriate for your specific condition.

Follow the recommended treatment plan

Once you receive a diagnosis and treatment plan from a healthcare professional, it’s essential to follow their recommendations diligently. This may include a combination of at-home exercises, physical therapy sessions, medications, or other interventions. Adhering to the prescribed treatment plan and attending follow-up appointments can significantly improve your chances of relieving shoulder pain and regaining full function.

Adjusting Daily Habits to Improve Sleep

Maintain a consistent sleep schedule

Establishing a regular sleep schedule can help regulate your body’s internal clock and improve the quality of your sleep. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This consistency trains your body to feel sleepy and wake up naturally, enhancing the overall sleep-wake cycle.

Avoid stimulating activities before bed

Engaging in stimulating activities close to bedtime can interfere with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Avoid activities that promote alertness, such as intense exercise, consuming caffeinated drinks, or using electronic devices with bright screens. Instead, opt for relaxation techniques, reading a book, or listening to calming music to promote a peaceful transition to sleep.

Manage stress and practice relaxation techniques

Stress can contribute to muscle tension and exacerbate shoulder pain. Incorporate stress management techniques into your daily routine to promote relaxation and reduce tension. This can include practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, journaling, or engaging in activities that bring you joy and help you unwind.

Improve your posture during the day

Poor posture during daily activities can contribute to shoulder pain and discomfort. Be mindful of your posture throughout the day and make necessary adjustments to maintain proper alignment. Avoid slouching or hunching your shoulders forward. Instead, engage your core, roll your shoulders back and down, and maintain an upright posture. This can help to reduce strain on your shoulder joints and alleviate pain.

Engage in regular exercise

Regular exercise is not only beneficial for overall health but can also promote better sleep and alleviate shoulder pain. Low-impact exercises, such as walking, swimming, or cycling, can help to improve circulation, reduce muscle tension, and enhance overall well-being. However, be mindful of any exercises that exacerbate your shoulder pain and modify or avoid them as necessary.

Lifestyle Modifications for Better Sleep

Change your dietary habits

Making changes to your dietary habits can positively impact your sleep quality. Avoid heavy or spicy meals close to bedtime, as they can cause discomfort and disrupt sleep. Instead, opt for light snacks that promote sleep, such as a small serving of nuts or a banana. Additionally, try to maintain a balanced diet that includes foods rich in sleep-promoting nutrients, such as magnesium, melatonin, and tryptophan.

Avoid caffeine and alcohol

Caffeine and alcohol can interfere with your sleep quality and exacerbate shoulder pain. Avoid consuming caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea, or energy drinks, at least four to six hours before bedtime. Alcohol may initially make you feel drowsy, but it can disrupt your sleep patterns and increase inflammation in your body. Limit or avoid alcohol consumption, especially close to bedtime.

Quit smoking

Smoking is linked to increased pain sensitivity and can contribute to shoulder pain and inflammation. Quitting smoking can have numerous health benefits, including better sleep quality. If you’re a smoker, speak with your healthcare professional about resources and strategies to quit smoking and improve your overall well-being.

Stay hydrated

Proper hydration is crucial for overall health, including sleep quality. Drink enough water throughout the day to ensure your body is adequately hydrated. However, be mindful of your fluid intake close to bedtime to avoid disruptive nighttime trips to the bathroom. Establish a balance that works best for your body and sleep needs.

Reduce screen time before bed

Excessive exposure to electronic screens, such as smartphones, tablets, or television, can interfere with your sleep quality. The blue light emitted from these devices can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. Limit your screen time at least one hour before bed and create a screen-free wind-down routine to prepare your body and mind for sleep.

Sleeping Aids for Shoulder Pain

Try a body pillow or pregnancy pillow

A body pillow or pregnancy pillow can provide support and help maintain proper alignment during sleep. These pillows can be positioned to support your shoulder and alleviate pain. Experiment with different pillow sizes and positions to find the most comfortable setup for your specific needs.

Use a memory foam mattress or topper

Memory foam mattresses or mattress toppers contour to your body, providing optimal support and pressure relief. This feature can help alleviate shoulder pain by reducing the pressure placed on the affected area. Consider investing in a high-quality memory foam mattress or adding a memory foam topper to your existing mattress for added comfort.

Consider using a sleep aid device

Sleep aid devices, such as orthopedic pillows or shoulder braces, are designed to provide targeted support and pain relief for shoulder pain. These devices are often adjustable and customizable to fit your specific needs. Consult with a healthcare professional or orthopedic specialist to determine if a sleep aid device is suitable for your condition.

Explore alternative sleeping surfaces

In some cases, finding the right sleeping surface can make a significant difference in shoulder pain relief. Try sleeping on different surfaces, such as a firmer or softer mattress, to see which offers the most support and comfort for your shoulder. Additionally, consider using mattress pads or toppers specifically designed for pain relief or pressure point reduction.

Use a TENS machine for pain relief

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) machines can provide temporary pain relief by delivering low-level electrical impulses to the affected area. These devices can help to reduce muscle tension, increase blood flow, and alleviate shoulder pain during sleep. Consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist to determine if a TENS machine is appropriate for your shoulder pain.

Preventing Shoulder Pain During Sleep

Use proper ergonomics during the day

Maintaining proper ergonomics during your daily activities can help prevent shoulder pain from developing or worsening. Whether you’re sitting at a desk, lifting objects, or engaging in physical tasks, prioritize good posture and use proper body mechanics to minimize strain on your shoulders. Adjust your workspace or equipment to ensure optimal ergonomics and seek professional guidance if needed.

Maintain good posture

Proper posture is crucial for overall shoulder health. Remember to sit and stand with your shoulders back, chest slightly lifted, and your head aligned with your spine. Avoid slumping or rounding your shoulders forward, as this can lead to shoulder pain and postural imbalances. Be mindful of your posture throughout the day, and make conscious efforts to maintain good alignment.

Avoid repetitive motions or overuse of the shoulder

Repetitive movements and overuse of the shoulder can contribute to shoulder pain and inflammation. Be mindful of activities or tasks that involve frequent overhead movements or repetitive motions, such as throwing, lifting, or reaching. Take regular breaks, vary your movements, and use proper form to avoid strain on the shoulder joint.

Take regular breaks and stretch

If you have a sedentary job or engage in activities that require prolonged shoulder use, schedule regular breaks to stretch and rest your shoulder muscles. Simple stretching exercises, such as shoulder rolls or shoulder blade squeezes, can help to alleviate tension and improve circulation. Set reminders or use smartphone apps to prompt yourself to take regular breaks throughout the day.

Strengthen your shoulder muscles

Strong shoulder muscles provide support and stability, preventing injuries and reducing the likelihood of shoulder pain. Incorporate shoulder-strengthening exercises into your fitness routine, focusing on exercises that target the rotator cuff muscles and the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint. Consult with a physical therapist or fitness professional to ensure proper form and technique.

By implementing these strategies, adjusting your sleep position, utilizing sleep aids, managing pain and inflammation, and seeking professional advice, you can enhance your sleep quality and find relief from shoulder pain. Remember to listen to your body, make necessary modifications, and establish healthy habits that promote restful nights and optimal shoulder health.

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