How to Sleep With Shoulder Pain


man with shoulder pain

Aches and pains come and go, but one thing that shouldn’t be disturbed during this time is your sleep. Perhaps you’ve injured yourself playing sport or age is simply taking its toll – whatever is causing your shoulder pain, getting some rest doesn’t have to be impossible.

There are plenty of solutions you probably haven’t thought of trying yet. Techniques such as using various different pillows, trying a new position and natural pain remedies are all ways you can aid yourself in sleeping with a sore shoulder. Throughout this article, we’ll show you how you can battle through your shoulder pain to get some shut-eye.

Avoid Sleeping On Your Front

It can be tempting to shift onto your front when your shoulder is aching. Your natural instincts may tell you to roll over to relieve pressure from the pain – however, this may be the worst move you can make. Sleeping on your front will pull your shoulder forward out of alignment, meaning you are no longer in a stable position.

Sleeping on your front won’t just cause more pain in your shoulders, it will also have a determinantal effect on your neck and back. This is according to one medical research group, which states that sleeping on your stomach is bad for to your back, as it places a certain amount of strain and pressure on your spine. The reason behind this is the fact that the middle part of your body is exactly where most of the weight is, making it difficult to maintain a neutral position of the spine during the night.

If you feel like you must sleep on your front, place a flat pillow under your stomach and pelvis area to help keep the spine in better alignment.

Sleep on The Opposite Side

Now you know that sleeping on your front isn’t necessarily the best answer, It’s time to try something else. But, perhaps you still can’t find a comfortable way to sleep on your back. If this is the case, you can try sleeping on your side. Roll onto the side of your body which isn’t experiencing the shoulder pain. This will take some relief from your bad shoulder.

For extra relief, try placing a pillow under the arm of your painful shoulder. This will aid in giving it some extra support throughout the night. While this may sound like a very obvious way to improve your ability to sleep with your shoulder pain, it’s harder to stay in this position during deep sleep. Your body may naturally roll back onto your sore shoulder, causing you more pain. To avoid this, place a pillow behind you to block you from rolling onto your damaged shoulder.

If you sleep with a partner, try switching sides with them to encourage you to sleep on the opposite side of your body.

Support Your Head and Neck

It can be easy to neglect the importance of supporting your head when you’re busy focusing on other bodily aches and pains, such as a bad shoulder. However, keeping your head and neck supported is important for maintaining your upper body in proper alignment. Without this, you can begin to feel a more severe shoulder pain or even develop pains in other areas.

To avoid this, make sure when you’re laying down on a pillow which isn’t too high or low, therefore putting a strain on your neck. It is also wise to purchase a pillow which is made with the right materials. A feather pillow will easily conform to the shape of your head and neck, meaning it will naturally support you in your favorite positions. Although feather pillows will collapse over time, you should only need to replace them every year or so. A soft memory foam pillow can also have the same impact.

If your neck is a particular worry for you when it comes to your alignment, consider adding a small rolled-up towel under your it for extra support.

Utilizing Different Pillows

As important as it is to support your head and neck for alignment, it’s easier said than done, especially when you want to sleep on your side. To make sure that you still have the right support while changing positions, try using different pillows to keep your body, ears, shoulders, and hips aligned.

For example, if you want to sleep on your side to relieve your shoulder pain without causing any more damage, try placing a firm pillow (like this one on Amazon) between your knees to prevent your upper leg from pulling your spine out of alignment and reduce stress on your hips and lower back. A rolled towel or small pillow under your waist may also help support your spine.

For extra support in straightening your spine while sleeping on your side, use a pillow that is higher under your neck than your head.

Try New Positions

Sleeping in one consistent position every night has been known to actually cause shoulder pain, or at least make existing pain worse. Experts say that nine out of ten of us sleep in the same position every night and that it might be time to make a change. Professor Chris Idzikowski, Director of the Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service, said: “The wrong sleep position can cause muscle cramping, impaired circulation and leave you hurt.”

Sleeping in the same positions can also create bad posture/imbalance, which over time results in pain. Of course, if you find that sleeping on your side with the aid of extra pillows are helping you to drift off despite your shoulder pain, there is no need to change it. However, trying out new options when your preferred sleeping position no longer works well for you is recommended.

Test Out Different Pain Medication

While it’s advised to visit a doctor if you have persistent shoulder pain and require professional help for a long-term medical issue, there are some things you can take or try out to help with temporary pain keeping you awake.

If you’d like to use natural remedies to aid your shoulder pain, you can try using the following:

  • Back Posture Corrector Spinal Support: Available on Amazon, this product retrains your body to assume a correct posture. It gently encourages your upper back and shoulders into proper alignment – relieving pressure, strain, tension, and straightening rounded shoulders and jutting necks.
  • Heat Therapy: Heat helps to relax tense muscles and soothe a stiff shoulder. Use a heated gel pack, heating pad or a hot water bottle.
  • Rest and Modify Activity: Relax your shoulder movement at the gym or other strenuous activities until the shoulder pain begins to ease to avoid doing any more damage.
  • Compression: Wrap the shoulder with a medical bandage to help reduce swelling and pain if the pain is injury-related. You can use a cold compression bandage or a regular ACE bandage. You can also get a shoulder wrap, which should be wrapped snuggly but not too tightly – you don’t want to block blood flow.

If you’re comfortable taking medication, you can try taking tablets that help reduce pain and inflammation (analgesics and anti-inflammatories) and can also assist in reducing pain during the night. Taking the tablets well before night time is advisable to allow enough time for them to work.

What Could Be Inflaming Your Shoulder Pain at Night?

You may find that your shoulder pain is particularly bad halfway through the night or perhaps you feel the ache when you wake up in the morning. According to melbournearmclinic.com, the most common causes of shoulder pain include shoulder impingement, bursitis, tendon damage (tendinopathy or tendinitis) or rotator cuff tears and arthritis (which can affect a few areas of the shoulder).

Unfortunately, these common issues also cause increased pain at night or during periods of rest, which is why you probably wake up with a more intense pain than when you went to sleep. However, there is no exact scientific reason as to why your shoulder pain is worse at night. One cause, if you don’t have any of the previously listed conditions, maybe how much pressure you’re applying to your shoulder during your sleep by compressing it into your mattress.

Other causes may be sleeping with your arm across your chest or above your head for extended periods.

What to Do When You Wake Up

After a successful night’s sleep with minimal pain, waking up can be a joy. But just as you prepared your body to sleep, you need to prepare your body to rise.

Stretching before standing is a great way to start the day. It will help reduce stiffness and soreness from the lack of movement through the night. It will also help get the blood flowing through the body and promote overall health.

Begin your morning with a whole-body stretch. Lie on your back and clasp your hands in front of you keeping your arms straight. Slowly raise your arms above your head, feeling your whole body stretch. Do this before you even sit up.

After this, you can do some more focused stretches for different parts of the spine, shoulders, and neck. Remember, that even though you have shoulder pain, your body’s parts are interconnected and keeping them all healthy will help heal your shoulder.

What If Your Pain Continues?

If you find that your pain is becoming unbearable despite following our tips, you should book a consultation with a medical professional to discuss your situation. A doctor may be able to prescribe you with muscle relaxants, which help treat pain if you have muscle tension or spasms around the shoulder joint. Common muscle relaxants include cyclobenzaprine, tizanidine, and baclofen.

You may be unknowingly suffering from a long-term condition which is disrupting your sleep, which makes it a good idea to get it seen too; before it gets progressively worse. Whether your pain is temporary or in need of more medical attention, it shouldn’t be too long before you find a solution which works for you – so you can return to having sweet dreams.

Author:

  • Tiara is an avid sleeper and fully dedicated to her work and research. Most often this includes, but is not limited to, napping, testing how many hours in one night that she can sleep, trying new sleep methods and constantly changing sleep positions. Tiara's main focuses are on dreams and how we can achieve the best natural sleep possible. As a sufferer of insomnia and other sleep-related disturbances, Tiara loves to dig deep into the subconscious to ask all the questions that can help us better understand what happens when we sleep.

Tiara Croft

Tiara is an avid sleeper and fully dedicated to her work and research. Most often this includes, but is not limited to, napping, testing how many hours in one night that she can sleep, trying new sleep methods and constantly changing sleep positions. Tiara's main focuses are on dreams and how we can achieve the best natural sleep possible. As a sufferer of insomnia and other sleep-related disturbances, Tiara loves to dig deep into the subconscious to ask all the questions that can help us better understand what happens when we sleep.

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