Sleeping Positions For Shoulder Pain

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Those with shoulder pain sometimes find it hard to get sleep at night. 

We toss, turn and switch positions until we finally fall asleep. If we end up sleeping in a bad position, we sometimes wake up with a painful shoulder. And this painful shoulder will make it more difficult to sleep the next evening. But worry no more as these tips below will help you find the best sleeping position for your shoulder pain.

The Back Sleeper

Would you believe that only about 8% of people like to sleep on their backs?

Although sleeping on your back is believed to be the best sleeping position for shoulder pain, only a few people are likely to sleep on their backs. You can easily support the neck, head, shoulder, and spine when you sleep on your back and you also allow your body to sleep in a natural, strain-free posture. Moreover, this position helps relax your shoulder since it isn’t strained in different directions. If you are experiencing shoulder pain despite sleeping on your back, it would be best to look into a pillow designed for shoulder pain while sleeping. You can also place an extra pillow in your armpit area, as this pillow helps prevent you from turning towards the painful shoulder and sleeping on it.

Use a pillow under your head to provide some elevation. Your pillow should not be too thick that it will cause your head to bend forward towards your chest. And it should not be too soft so that it no longer provides support. Your pillow should be able to provide the correct elevation so that your head and back are aligned the same way when you are standing and in a correct posture.

It will also help if you place a bolster pillow under your neck to bridge the gap between your neck and the bed. This extra pillow will help add additional support. The neck and shoulders have interconnected muscles, thus sleeping in a neutral position that doesn’t stress your neck muscles will also help decrease shoulder pain. If there’s too much pressure on your neck when you sleep, it is more likely that you’ll experience pain in your shoulders as well.

For more intense shoulder pain, it’s best to add another pillow under the arm of that painful shoulder. Primarily, this extra pillow will help prevent you from accidentally leaning on your painful shoulder while you sleep. Its secondary purpose is to help ease pressure on your painful shoulder.

The Side Sleeper

It may sound counter-intuitive but sometimes sleeping on the affected shoulder—if done correctly—can actually help ease the pain. This is a great option if you’re used to sleeping on your back but you still develop shoulder pain.

Lay on your back and then slowly turn towards the side with the painful shoulder. Make sure that between your mid-hips and back there is a soft pillow. The pillow will help provide support for your back area and help keep your spine in a neutral position. Make sure to use a thicker, firmer pillow under your head since it is now slightly more elevated than when you are sleeping on your back. The thickness of the pillow that you will be using for your head should be enough to keep your neck aligned correctly with the rest of your back. Imagine how your back is aligned when you are standing in a correct posture. Your head pillow should be able to support your head and neck so that it is aligned the same way. Add a rolled towel or a bolster pillow under your neck to bridge the gap between your neck and the bed. This will provide additional support for your neck during this position.

Another version of this position is to slightly lean back so that your shoulders are in a 45-degree angle with the bed. The pressure on your shoulder blade will be redirected, and it won’t be directly on the painful area of the shoulder. To maintain this position, place a pillow behind your back. This will help maintain the angled position. Also, place a pillow between your legs close to your pelvis. Ideally, this pillow should be perpendicular to your body so that it will help prevent you from turning while you sleep. Add another pillow on your stomach area to help prevent you from turning towards that direction.

If you feel like your arm on the side of the affected area is not getting proper circulation, placing a push-up pillow under your arm will help distance your upper arm a little from your body so that it will have proper circulation. Make sure your arm is not too far from your body nor should it be positioned too high. Positioning your arm too high when the support pillow is too thick can cause numbness on your arm.

The Inclined Sleeper

Some people prefer sleeping while sitting on a recliner or on an adjustable bed. This helps provide healthy spine support and relieve tension on the shoulder. It can take time to get used to this position but think of it as a close variant of sleeping on your back which is the best sleeping position. Just make sure to have a head pillow that will give you enough head support that will maintain neck and back alignment. Having a twisted towel positioned between your neck and the bed will help add extra support to maintain alignment.

Sleeping with Back Support

If your shoulder pain comes from a rotator cuff injury, you can help alleviate the pain by sleeping on your back as described above and then add a back support. This back support can be a small pillow that will fit between your shoulder blades. This pillow will provide a natural arc between your shoulder blades and help ease tension from your shoulder as long as the arc is not too steep. This can also help with shoulder stiffness even though you are not suffering from a rotator cuff injury. Most of the time, some shoulder pain comes from sleeping too flat on your back. The pillow support helps provide just the right amount of curve between your shoulder blades so that you will be able to maintain the natural arch of your back even when you sleep.

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