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How to Sleep with Shoulder Pain

Relieve Shoulder Pain

We all know that sleep is essential for our well-being.

And we also know that many things can ruin our restful slumber.

Shoulder pain is one of those things. In fact, it is quite common and can affect up to 66% of the population.

That’s why today we are going to learn how to sleep better when dealing with shoulder pain. We have gathered tips and tricks that are meant to help you feel more comfortable despite the pain and improve your sleep quality.

What Can Cause Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain can appear out of nowhere, and there can be many reasons behind it. Let’s take a look at the most common ones:

  • Sleeping position. Yes, even simply sleeping on your side can cause shoulder pain. Especially if your mattress isn’t ideal for this position. Let me explain: when you sleep on your side, the shoulder is pressed against the mattress. It kind of crushes into the mattress surface. And if that surface is too stiff, it puts a lot of pressure against the shoulder, which can lead to numbness, stiffness, or pain. A good mattress for side sleepers should be soft enough to allow the shoulder to sink into the comfort layers. If you sleep on your side, your mattress has to gently hug the shoulder instead of keeping it on the surface. There are many extra “tricks” you can try to improve your posture and start sleeping on your side without shoulder pain. There are plenty of effective recommendations here.
  • Rotator cuff tear. This is one of the most common sports-related injuries. However, it can happen to anyone, not just professional athletes. The rotator cuff can be damaged due to overuse, strain, or even a fall. This issue is especially common among people who have to do repetitive movements for work every day or lift heavy things.
  • Fracture. If you fall or take a hard hit, the bone in the shoulder (or the collarbone) can crack, causing pain and sleep issues. That’s why it’s important to get an X-ray in case you hurt your shoulder or experience a bad fall.
  • Frozen shoulder. Also quite common, frozen shoulder is a condition that limits the shoulder joint and how much it can move. It causes stiffness and pain, the levels of which can vary in different cases. The reason behind frozen shoulder is the abnormal tissue build-up in the joint, which is especially common among middle-aged women.
  • Rotator cuff tendonitis, or inflammation of the tendons. Usually, it can occur due to repetitive motions. Tendonitis causes shoulder pain and weakness that can worsen when you try to move the joint.
  • Shoulder bursitis. In this case, your shoulder can feel hot, become swollen, and remain sore for a prolonged period. Shoulder bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa (the sac of fluid that serves as the cushion for the bones and the muscles, allowing them to smoothly glide over).
Relieve Shoulder Pain

How to Sleep Better with Shoulder Pain: Tips and Tricks

Shoulder pain is certainly unpleasant, but it shouldn’t become your worst enemy. There are many things you can try to start sleeping better even when your shoulder is trying to interfere with that:

  • Invest in a suitable mattress and get a proper pillow. Your bed and your pillow are the two most important factors that can either save or ruin your good night’s sleep. When dealing with shoulder pain, it’s especially important to receive proper support and pressure relief from your mattress. It shouldn’t be too soft, as this will make your spine go into an unhealthy posture. Your mattress shouldn’t be overly stiff either, as this can cause more tension in your body and its protruding areas. As for the pillow, it has to correspond with your sleeping position. Side sleepers require loftier pillows that are thick enough to keep the head supported and aligned with the shoulders. Back sleepers need thinner pillows, preferably with a special (slightly elevated) section to fill in the neck curve. As for stomach sleepers, they are advised to choose very thin pillows (or sleep without one).
  • Create a favorable sleeping environment. Make sure that your bedroom is pleasantly cool, quiet, and dark. This might not affect the pain levels directly, but a good sleeping environment will help you relax and fall asleep easier. Your bedroom can greatly contribute to the quality of your slumber.
  • Sleep on your healthy shoulder. If you are a side sleeper, it’s best to avoid lying on your aching shoulder. You can set up a couple of pillows behind your back to stop yourself from rolling onto your affected side during the night. You might also try sleeping on your back, with the arms extended to the sides or above your head to minimize shoulder pain.
  • Stretch before and after bed. This can improve the blood flow, which might help your shoulder muscles and tendons heal faster. Regular stretches and light exercises may even help reduce the pain levels in your shoulder.
  • Try using a body pillow. It can do a couple of things. Firstly, a body pillow can prevent you from rolling onto your sore shoulder. Additionally, it can create extra support for your body and help reduce tension from the affected shoulder.
  • Apply heat or cold compresses to the affected areas before bed. This can reduce the pain levels, allowing you to fall asleep easier. Ice packs are recommended for strains and shoulder tendonitis, while heat therapy is better for arthritis, for example.
  • Breathe. When you first lie down, use gentle deep breathing to calm down and relax. This might also improve the oxygen flow to the muscles, allowing them to relax even when experiencing pain.
  • Take pain medication. You can try some over-the-counter options like ibuprofen or talk to your doctor and get a prescription for your shoulder pain. Take the medicine shortly before bed, so that you could fall asleep pain-free.
  • Sleep in a reclined position. It often helps relieve pressure and pain from the shoulders. You can try placing several pillows behind your back or sleep in a recliner chair. If you have an adjustable bed frame, that’s the best scenario as you will be able to get the proper support from your mattress.

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