The Best Sleeping Positions For Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain is a common complaint that can contribute to having trouble sleeping. Getting a good night’s sleep is important for our physical and mental health, so we want to make sure you’re catching those Zs! If you experience shoulder pain that keeps you from the deep sleep you need, however, this can be easier said than done. The good news is that there are certain sleeping positions that can help to alleviate shoulder pain and help you get a better night’s rest.

This article takes a closer look at some of the best sleeping positions for shoulder pain so you can stop tossing and turning and get a good night’s rest instead. For personalised advice, contact our team at Optimise Health today.

Shouldering The Weight

Do you wake up with sore shoulders? It’s likely that the first time (or the first few times) this happened, you didn’t understand why. After all, what do your shoulders do while you’re asleep? Not much, right?

They actually do a lot more than you may think! Your shoulders play an important role in your sleeping posture, including supporting your head and neck. Therefore, their position while you sleep has the ability to affect your overall comfort day to day, as well as the health of your shoulder joints.

The Causes Of Shoulder Pain From Sleeping

If you wake up with a sore shoulder (or two) once in a blue moon, it’s likely that you’ve slept awkwardly without realising. Maybe you fell asleep while scrolling on your phone, or your pillow slipped out from under your head. It happens!

However, if your shoulder pain continues for an extended period of time, it’s recommended that you see your doctor to determine if any other factors could be at play.

If you feel shoulder pain when you wake up, it may be from:

  • Your mattress: If your mattress is old, broken, or lumpy, it’s probably not supporting you as best it could. Also, if your bed has slats to hold the mattress up, the slats could be the cause if they’ve slipped from their position and have caused an uneven sleeping surface.

  • Repeated sleeping positions: If you always sleep in the same position, this may lead to swelling and/or joint pain over time. Switch up how you sleep if possible, to avoid inflammation, pain, and possibly injuries such as rotator cuff injuries.

  • Irregular sleeping patterns: Sleep hygiene is important for our health, including our bones and joints, so it’s important to stick as close to a regular sleeping pattern as possible.

  • Shoulder injuries: Whether it’s a rotator cuff injury, frozen shoulder, or even referred pain starting from the neck, a shoulder injury can make getting rest difficult. Use a pillow or two to ensure you’re properly supported at night, and move them around if necessary to stay in a healthy sleeping position.

The Best Sleeping Position For Shoulder Pain

There are several sleeping positions that may help to alleviate shoulder pain and reduce discomfort you feel during the night or the next day. You may wish to try:

1. Sleeping on your back

This is a neutral sleeping position, where your head rests on a pillow to keep not only your shoulders but also the rest of your body aligned, minimising pressure on the joints. You can also place a small pillow or cushion under your arms or the backs of your knees if you like, to keep them from rotating. Sleeping on your back also helps to distribute your weight evenly, which means it also places equal pressure on your joints instead of favouring one side.

2. Sleeping on your side

This popular sleeping position can be done with or without an additional pillow. While you have a pillow under your head, you can use another one between your knees to keep your spine aligned and reduce pressure on your shoulders. Again, you can also use another pillow to place under your lower arm to reduce strain on the joint.

3. Sleeping in the foetal position

There’s a good reason why people continue to sleep in this position throughout their lives! The foetal position allows you to place less pressure on your joints, including the shoulder joints. Pillows can come in handy here as well— you may wish to use a small, additional pillow under your neck for added support.

Choosing a healthy sleeping position is a great way to begin improving your shoulder pain from sleeping. However, it’s not the one and only thing you need to look at. Ensuring your mattress and pillow/s are supportive helps to keep your spine aligned and reduce pressure on your shoulders, and getting good quality sleep is important for a number of reasons.

If your shoulder pain doesn’t improve after changing your sleeping position and making any other necessary changes, it’s recommended that you talk to your doctor or another healthcare provider for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment.


Don’t Give Physiotherapy The Cold Shoulder


If you’re tired of tossing and turning from sleeping with shoulder pain, we hope one of the above sleeping positions will be able to help you get a good night’s sleep. However, it’s important not to ignore any pain that persists, including shoulder pain from sleeping. Our team at Optimise Health is available for physiotherapy sessions in Toowoomba & Warwick to assist with your shoulder pain so you can get back to sleeping like a baby. Interested? Book an appointment at our Toowoomba or Warwick clinic today!


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