20 July 2024
If you wake up with shoulder ache after sleeping, this article provides tips for relieving pain and improving sleep quality. Don't let discomfort ruin your day!

If you’ve ever woken up with a nagging shoulder ache after a night of sleep, you’re not alone. Dealing with discomfort can put a damper on your day and affect your overall well-being. But fret not! In this article, we’ll share some friendly tips that can help relieve that shoulder ache and improve your quality of sleep so you can wake up feeling refreshed and pain-free.

Tips for Relieving Shoulder Ache from Sleeping

Causes of Shoulder Ache from Sleeping

Inadequate Pillow Support

One of the main causes of shoulder ache from sleeping is inadequate pillow support. When your pillow doesn’t provide enough support or is too high or too low, it can put strain on your neck and shoulder muscles. This can lead to pain and discomfort, especially if you sleep on your side or stomach where your shoulders bear most of the weight. It is important to choose a pillow that is the right thickness and firmness to properly support your head and neck, and keep your spine aligned while you sleep.

Sleeping on Your Side

Sleeping on your side is a common sleeping position, but it can contribute to shoulder ache if not done properly. When you sleep on your side, your top shoulder may bear the weight of your body, leading to shoulder pain and stiffness. To prevent this, try placing a pillow between your knees to help align your spine, and use a supportive pillow that keeps your head and neck properly aligned.

Sleeping on Your Stomach

Sleeping on your stomach may be comfortable for some people, but it can strain your neck and shoulder muscles. When you sleep on your stomach, you have to keep your head turned to the side to breathe, which can lead to neck and shoulder pain. It is best to avoid this sleeping position if you regularly experience shoulder ache. If you find it hard to change your sleeping position, try using a thin pillow or no pillow at all to minimize strain on your shoulder muscles.

Sleeping in an Awkward Position

Sometimes, you may unknowingly sleep in an awkward position that puts strain on your shoulder. This can occur if you twist or turn your body while you sleep, or if you use blankets or pillows that cause your shoulder to be in an unnatural position. It is important to be mindful of your sleeping position and make adjustments if you notice any discomfort. Use pillows and blankets that support your body without causing your shoulder to be in an awkward position.

Muscle Imbalance

Muscle imbalance can contribute to shoulder ache from sleeping. If certain muscles in your shoulder and back are weaker than others, it can lead to poor posture and strain on your shoulder muscles while you sleep. Regularly stretching and strengthening your shoulder and back muscles can help improve muscle imbalances and reduce the risk of shoulder ache.

Injury or Strain

In some cases, shoulder ache from sleeping may be due to an underlying injury or strain. If you have experienced a shoulder injury in the past or if you engage in activities that put a lot of strain on your shoulder, such as weightlifting or sports, it is possible that the pain you feel while sleeping is a result of these factors. If you suspect that your shoulder ache is caused by an injury or strain, it is important to seek medical advice to properly diagnose and treat the issue.

Preventing Shoulder Ache from Sleeping

Choose the Right Pillow

To prevent shoulder ache from sleeping, it is crucial to choose the right pillow. Look for a pillow that provides adequate support for your head and neck, and keeps your spine properly aligned. The ideal pillow for you may depend on your preferred sleeping position, so consider factors such as firmness, thickness, and material when selecting a pillow. Investing in a high-quality pillow that meets your specific needs can make a significant difference in preventing shoulder pain.

Sleep on Your Back

Sleeping on your back is generally considered the best sleeping position for preventing shoulder ache. When you sleep on your back, your body weight is evenly distributed, reducing the strain on your shoulders. To further enhance your sleeping comfort, consider using a pillow that supports the natural curve of your neck and a small pillow or rolled-up towel under your knees to support your lower back.

Use a Body Pillow

If you find it difficult to sleep on your back or if you naturally gravitate towards sleeping on your side, using a body pillow can offer additional support and prevent shoulder ache. A body pillow can be placed between your knees to align your spine and reduce strain on your shoulders. It can also provide a sense of security and help you maintain a more stable sleeping position.

Maintain Proper Posture

Poor posture throughout the day can contribute to shoulder ache from sleeping. When you slouch or have rounded shoulders during the day, it puts extra strain on your shoulder muscles, making them more susceptible to pain and discomfort while you sleep. To maintain proper posture, be conscious of your sitting and standing positions, and consider using ergonomic chairs or back supports. By improving your overall posture, you can alleviate shoulder ache and promote better sleep.

Stretch Before Bed

Stretching before bed can help loosen tight shoulder muscles and promote relaxation, reducing the chances of experiencing shoulder ache during sleep. Some simple stretches you can include in your bedtime routine include shoulder rolls, arm circles, and gentle neck stretches. Remember to perform the stretches slowly and gently, without any sudden movements or force. Incorporating a few minutes of stretching into your nightly routine can make a significant difference in preventing shoulder pain.

Tips for Relieving Shoulder Ache from Sleeping

Reducing Shoulder Ache from Sleeping

Apply Ice or Heat

If you wake up with shoulder ache from sleeping, applying ice or heat can help alleviate the pain and reduce inflammation. You can start with ice therapy by wrapping an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables in a thin towel and placing it on the affected shoulder for about 15-20 minutes. This will help numb the area and reduce swelling. Alternatively, you can use a heating pad or a warm towel to apply heat to the shoulder for 20 minutes, which can help relax the muscles and relieve pain.

Perform Gentle Shoulder Exercises

Including gentle shoulder exercises in your daily routine can help alleviate shoulder ache and strengthen the muscles in that area. Some exercises you can try include shoulder circles, shoulder shrugs, and shoulder blade squeezes. These exercises help improve blood circulation, increase flexibility, and promote proper muscle movement. Remember to start with low-intensity exercises and gradually increase the intensity as your muscles become stronger and more flexible. It is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or a physical therapist to ensure you perform the exercises correctly and to receive personalized guidance.

Take Over-the-Counter Pain Relief

If your shoulder ache persists and causes discomfort, taking over-the-counter pain relief medication can offer temporary relief. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can help reduce pain and inflammation. However, it is important to follow the instructions on the packaging and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about potential side effects or interactions with other medications you may be taking. As with any medication, it is best to use pain relief medicine responsibly and as directed.

Try Acupuncture or Massage

Alternative therapies such as acupuncture or massage can provide relief for shoulder ache from sleeping. Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin needles at specific points on the body to promote healing and pain relief. Massage therapy, on the other hand, involves manipulating the muscles and soft tissues to reduce tension and improve circulation. Both acupuncture and massage can help relax tight shoulder muscles, reduce pain, and enhance overall well-being. It is important to seek out licensed and experienced professionals when considering these therapies to ensure safe and effective treatment.

Seeking Medical Assistance

If Pain Persists or Worsens

If your shoulder ache from sleeping persists or worsens despite trying various prevention and reduction methods, it is advisable to seek medical assistance. Chronic or intensifying shoulder pain could indicate an underlying condition that requires proper diagnosis and treatment. A healthcare professional can evaluate your symptoms, conduct a physical examination, and recommend further tests or refer you to a specialist to determine the cause of your shoulder ache and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

If There Are Other Symptoms

If your shoulder ache is accompanied by other symptoms, such as numbness, tingling, weakness, or difficulty moving your shoulder, it could be a sign of a more serious condition. These symptoms could indicate nerve impingement, rotator cuff injury, or a pinched nerve. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional in these cases to receive a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

If the Shoulder Feels Unstable

If you notice your shoulder feels unstable, clicks, or pops out of place while you sleep or during daily activities, it is crucial to seek medical assistance. These symptoms could be indicative of a shoulder dislocation or instability. A healthcare professional can evaluate your condition, recommend imaging tests such as an X-ray or an MRI, and provide guidance on the appropriate treatment options, which may include physical therapy or even surgery.

If There Is a History of Shoulder Problems

If you have a history of shoulder problems or have previously experienced shoulder injuries or surgeries, it is especially important to seek medical assistance if you develop shoulder ache from sleeping. The previous injuries or surgeries may have weakened the surrounding structures in the shoulder, making it more susceptible to pain and damage. A healthcare professional can assess your situation, review your medical history, and provide personalized advice and treatment options to address your specific needs.

Tips for Relieving Shoulder Ache from Sleeping

Shoulder Pain Prevention Tips

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for overall health, including the prevention of shoulder ache from sleeping. Excess weight can exert additional pressure on your shoulders, leading to discomfort and pain. By adopting a balanced diet and regular exercise routine, you can manage your weight effectively and reduce the risk of shoulder pain.

Strengthen Shoulder Muscles

Regularly strengthening your shoulder muscles can help prevent shoulder ache from sleeping. Incorporate exercises that target the muscles in your shoulders, such as shoulder presses, lateral raises, and rows, into your fitness routine. It is important to start with light weights and gradually increase the resistance as your muscles become stronger. If you are unsure about proper exercise techniques or need guidance, consider consulting with a fitness professional or a physical therapist.

Avoid Repetitive Strain

Engaging in repetitive activities that strain your shoulder muscles can contribute to shoulder ache, both during the day and while you sleep. Be mindful of your movements and avoid repetitive actions that put excessive stress on your shoulders, such as lifting heavy objects overhead or performing repetitive reaching or throwing motions. If your daily activities involve repetitive shoulder movements, take regular breaks, and incorporate stretching exercises to help alleviate strain.

Improve Sleeping Habits

Improving your sleeping habits can significantly reduce the risk of shoulder ache. In addition to the prevention tips mentioned earlier, it is important to establish a relaxing bedtime routine, create a comfortable sleep environment, and prioritize getting enough sleep each night. By prioritizing good sleep hygiene, you can ensure that your body and muscles have optimal conditions for rest and recovery, reducing the chance of shoulder pain from sleep.


Shoulder ache from sleeping can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience, but there are various causes, prevention methods, and reduction techniques that can help manage and alleviate the pain. By paying attention to your sleeping position, using the right pillow, practicing good posture, and incorporating shoulder exercises and stretches into your daily routine, you can significantly reduce the risk of shoulder ache. However, if the pain persists, worsens, or is accompanied by other symptoms, it is important to seek medical assistance to properly diagnose and treat any underlying conditions. Remember to listen to your body, prioritize self-care, and seek professional advice when needed to ensure a good night’s sleep and a pain-free shoulder.

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