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Shoulder Pain from Sleeping: Causes and Prevention Tips

A good night’s sleep is essential for our overall health and well-being. However, sometimes, we wake up with shoulder pain and stiffness, making it difficult to carry out our daily activities. Shoulder pain from sleeping may occur for various reasons, such as injury, poor sleeping posture, or underlying medical conditions. If you frequently experience shoulder pain from sleeping, it is important to understand the causes and learn prevention tips to improve your sleep quality.


Understanding Shoulder Pain From Sleeping

Shoulder pain from sleeping is common and can range from mild discomfort to severe pain. It usually affects the top and sides of the shoulders, making it difficult to lift your arms or move them freely. The pain may also radiate down your arm or neck, causing additional discomfort. In some cases, you may also experience numbness or tingling sensations in your shoulder or arm. The following causes may contribute to shoulder pain from sleeping.

The Role of Sleeping Positions

One of the main causes of shoulder pain is sleeping in an awkward position, which can place undue stress on your shoulders. For side sleepers, this often means applying excessive pressure on the lower shoulder, leading to discomfort and pain. Those who sleep on their stomach may experience shoulder misalignment and strain, as this position forces the neck to turn to one side, disrupting the natural alignment.

Conversely, sleeping on your back is typically advised to minimize shoulder pressure. However, it’s not the ideal solution for everyone, particularly for those dealing with snoring or sleep apnea. 

Shoulder Conditions and Sleep Discomfort

The discomfort many experience during sleep is often directly linked to specific shoulder conditions rather than merely being a side effect of sleeping in an unfavorable position. These conditions themselves are the primary source of pain and can persist and intensify during the night, affecting both sleep quality and overall well-being. Highlighted below are common shoulder conditions that, while they may be exacerbated by certain sleeping positions, are issues in their own right:

  • Rotator cuff tendonitis
  • Bursitis
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome

Tips to Prevent Shoulder Pain When Sleeping

To mitigate the discomfort of shoulder pain and ensure a restful night’s sleep, incorporating certain preventative measures and adjustments to your sleeping habits can be beneficial. 

Optimize Your Sleeping Environment

The choice of your mattress and pillow is crucial for ensuring your body receives the right support while you sleep. Opting for a medium-firm mattress can offer the ideal balance of comfort and support across various sleeping positions. 

Similarly, selecting a pillow that properly supports your neck and shoulders is essential for maintaining a neutral spine alignment. Side sleepers, in particular, might find a thicker pillow beneficial to bridge the gap between their head and the mattress, further enhancing comfort and preventing shoulder pain.

Strengthen and Stretch

Regular exercise and stretching your shoulder muscles can help prevent pain and stiffness. Targeted exercises that strengthen the rotator cuff, such as internal and external rotations, can also improve posture and reduce shoulder strain during sleep. Additionally, incorporating stretches like shoulder rolls and cross-body arm stretches into your daily routine can alleviate shoulder tension.

Improve Your Sleeping Posture

Changing your sleeping position can significantly reduce shoulder pain from sleeping. Side sleepers can try placing a pillow between their arms or in front of their chest to alleviate pressure on the shoulders. For those who prefer sleeping on their stomach, placing a pillow under the pelvis can help maintain spinal alignment and relieve shoulder strain. Moreover, using a body pillow while sleeping on your back can provide added support and comfort to the shoulders.

Manage Stress

Stress can also contribute to shoulder pain from sleeping, as it often leads to muscle tension and stiffness. Practicing stress management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or gentle yoga before bed can help alleviate stress and improve sleep quality. Additionally, creating a relaxing sleep environment can also contribute to reducing stress and promoting restful sleep.

Treat Shoulder Pain at Performance Sports Medicine Institute

Don’t let shoulder pain disrupt your sleep and daily life any longer. At Performance Sports Medicine Institute, we’re dedicated to diagnosing and treating the root cause of your discomfort. Our team of experts utilizes the latest advancements in sports medicine and rehabilitation techniques to create customized treatment plans that suit your specific needs. Book an appointment with us today and get on the path to better sleep and overall wellness.

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