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How To Sleep With Shoulder Pain: Tips for a Restful Night

How to Sleep with Shoulder Pain: Best Sleep Positions


Dealing with how to sleep with shoulder pain can turn bedtime into a nightly challenge. Whether it’s due to an injury, muscle strain, or a chronic condition, finding a comfortable position to sleep in becomes crucial.

In this guide, we’ll explore effective strategies to ensure a restful night’s sleep despite shoulder discomfort. If you’re facing persistent issues, seeking guidance from healthcare professionals such as Madison Physical Therapy can provide tailored solutions for your shoulder pain.

Preparing for Sleep with Shoulder Pain

Studies suggest that a significant percentage, ranging from 50% to 90%, of individuals dealing with chronic joint pain, including shoulder discomfort, experience difficulties when trying to sleep.

Before diving into the best sleeping position for shoulder pain, let’s lay the groundwork for a soothing night. Consider adopting relaxation techniques:

Adjusting Your Sleep Environment

Creating the ideal sleep environment, known as sleep hygiene, can profoundly influence your comfort. Invest in a mattress and pillows that provide ample shoulder support, striking the right balance between firmness and softness.

Relaxation Techniques Before Bed

Incorporate these relaxation techniques into your bedtime routine to ease tension in your shoulders and cultivate healthy sleeping habits, as suggested by a valuable cross-sectional study:

Gentle Stretches: Perform simple shoulder stretches targeting your shoulder muscles, shoulders, and neck to release muscle tension and promote flexibility in the connective tissue, including the area around your shoulder blades.

Deep Breathing Exercises: Practice deep, slow breaths to calm your nervous system and promote relaxation, fostering healthy sleep habits and enhancing overall blood flow over a sustained period of time.

Warm Bath: Take a warm bath before bedtime to soothe your muscles; it is especially beneficial if you’re dealing with a sore shoulder, shoulder injuries, or chronic pain at night, creating a calming pre-sleep ritual.

Best Sleep Positions for Shoulder Pain

Best Sleep Positions for Shoulder Pain

Sleeping in specific positions can add extra strain to your shoulder. Finding the optimal sleep posture can make a significant difference in managing shoulder pain.

Let’s delve into the best ways to sleep with shoulder pain and strategies that promote a restful night, ensuring you wake up feeling refreshed and free from shoulder discomfort.

The Fetal Position

Curl up on your side with knees drawn toward your chest. This position reduces pressure on the shoulder joints, alleviating shoulder strain and relieving the rotator cuff muscles, promoting a more comfortable sleep.

Sleeping on Your Back

Use a supportive pillow under your head and another beneath your arms to maintain proper alignment and reduce strain on your shoulders in your preferred sleeping position. This helps prevent discomfort caused by sleeping in an awkward position.

Using Pillows for Support

Strategically placing pillows can make a significant difference. Consider hugging a pillow to support your upper arm or try placing a pillow between your knees when sleeping on your side to prevent shoulder compression.

What to Avoid

How you sleep can either play a crucial role in alleviating shoulder pain or actively contribute to your discomfort. To safeguard against exacerbating shoulder pain, it’s crucial to steer clear of certain pitfalls.

You can take proactive measures to promote better sleep quality and shoulder health by avoiding these, especially if you’re dealing with a painful shoulder:

Wrong Mattress and Pillows

Avoid mattresses that are either too firm or too soft. Choose a mattress which provide support to the natural curvature of your spine, providing ample support for your upper body. Similarly, choose pillows, including cervical pillows, that offer proper neck and shoulder support, helping alleviate discomfort, including night pain.

Inadvisable Sleep Positions

Certain sleep positions can exacerbate shoulder pain, a common complaint. For a more comfortable sleeping position, avoid sleeping on the side with the affected shoulder down or consistently sleeping on the same side, as these habits can lead to increased discomfort. Instead, aim for a neutral position that supports better shoulder health.

Recognizing Serious Symptoms

Recognizing Serious Symptoms

Be aware of the following signs that may indicate more severe shoulder issues:

Persistent or Severe Pain: Professional attention is necessary if your shoulder pain persists or becomes severe.

Numbness: Experience of numbness in conjunction with shoulder pain could signify an underlying concern.

Tingling: Persistent tingling sensations should not be ignored and should prompt a consultation with a healthcare professional.

Weakness: If you notice weakness accompanying shoulder pain, seeking prompt medical advice is recommended.

When to See a Doctor

Determining when to seek medical attention for shoulder pain is crucial, especially if you experience persistent discomfort, severe pain, or symptoms affecting daily life. Consulting a doctor for expert evaluation and guidance is essential to address these concerns and prevent the potential impact of poor sleep on your overall well-being.

Peak Endurance Performance & Physical Therapy offers specialized care for various shoulder conditions, ensuring personalized and effective solutions. With expertise in physical therapy for runners, our team is dedicated to providing comprehensive support. Schedule a consultation today for lasting relief and optimal shoulder health.

Conclusion: Restful Sleep is Within Reach

In the quest for peaceful sleep amidst shoulder pain, remember that finding the perfect routine takes trial and error. Adjustments are key to achieving that elusive rest with shoulder discomfort. Seeking guidance from a shoulder specialist, who may recommend incorporating gentle shoulder exercises, can provide valuable insights tailored to your individual needs. They may also suggest effective treatments for shoulder pain to enhance your overall well-being.

As you navigate sleep strategies, it’s equally important to address lower limb concerns like shin splints vs stress fractures. Recognizing the difference is pivotal for informed decisions on your well-being.


Q1: What are some common causes of shoulder pain?

A1: Shoulder pain can result from various causes, including injuries, muscle strains, arthritis, poor sleeping posture, and conditions such as frozen shoulder, rotator cuff tear, and shoulder impingement. These factors contribute to discomfort and may impact your overall shoulder health.

Q2: Can I sleep on my side with shoulder pain?

A2: Yes, sleeping on your side can be comfortable with shoulder pain, especially if you adopt the fetal position and use supportive pillows, including an extra pillow to maintain the natural curve of your spine and support your shoulders.

Q3: How can I prevent shoulder pain while sleeping?

A3: Invest in a supportive mattress and pillows, practice relaxation techniques before bed, and experiment with sleep positions until you find what works best for you, especially if you are dealing with severe shoulder pain. Consider using firm pillows to enhance support and alleviate discomfort.