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How To Sleep With Shoulder Pain? [What You Need To Know]

How To Sleep With Shoulder Pain? [What You Need To Know]

Have you been spending sleepless nights due to shoulder pain or a frozen shoulder? Chronic shoulder pain is unfortunately common and according to a study, about 67% of people who sleep on their sides experience shoulder pain. Besides wrong sleeping positions, there are several other factors such as rotator cuff injury, excessive wear-and-tear, or shoulder bursitis that can cause or aggravate shoulder pain.

If you have shoulder pain on one side, try sleeping on your back or the other. Use a soft pillow between the shoulder blades and then sleep on your back if you have shoulder pain on both sides. For sleeping with shoulder and neck pain, use a certified cervical pillow. It is best to use a memory foam pillow and a medium-firm mattress to get relief from the symptoms of shoulder pain.

Shoulder pain from sleeping can be eased out when you sleep in a neutral position. It helps the shoulders to recover gradually. Try not to put pressure on your shoulders. It is also very crucial to use the right pillow and mattress combination for all sorts of joint pain. Thus, if you are suffering from shoulder or neck pain, here is what you got to do:

Best Sleeping Position For Shoulder Pain

One should always practice good sleeping habits. For maximum support and comfort, sleeping positions that will move pressure off your aching shoulder should be considered. The following are some of the key points to remember while sleeping with shoulder pain:

Sleep On Your Back Or Sides

Sleeping on your back is the best position when you have shoulder pain. You can make yourself feel more comfortable by placing a pillow right beneath the crooks of your leg. This sleeping position also helps in maintaining the lower back curve. If you do not want to place a pillow below your leg, then use a rolled-up towel.

If sleeping on the back doesn't work for you, try resting on the opposite shoulder.

Do Not Sleep On Your Stomach

Sleeping on your stomach for a long time puts pressure on your lower back and neck. Therefore, it is not advisable to sleep on your stomach, especially when you have shoulder pain. Also, do not try to sleep on the front side as this may destabilize the sore shoulder and put extra pressure on it.

Sleep On Modified 'supine' Position

Supine position (or 'warrior-like') is a sleeping position where you sleep with hands on your sides. When you have shoulder pain, and you normally sleep in the supine position, modify it by lying on your back horizontally. This modified supine position reduces the pressure on the shoulder joints and other parts of the body. It also provides support to your neck, arms, shoulders, and back. Supine position improves spinal alignment, reduces muscle strains, and de-stresses the tension areas.

Sleeping With Hands Under The Pillow

Sleeping with hands under the pillow is also known as the 'Prone' position. When having shoulder pain, carefully place your hands under or below the pillow and avoid stretching your arms excessively. This sleeping position is recommended only if you have mild shoulder pain.

Use A Body Pillow

A body pillow or a couple pillow will keep your shoulders stable while you have a comfortable sleep at night. It keeps you from rolling and prevents further injuries to the aching shoulder. Consider investing in a body pillow that can give extra support to your knees, arms, and back.

What Type Of Pillows Are Best For Shoulder Pain?

Pillows play an important role in escalating or alleviating shoulder pain. It is widely acclaimed that peanut-shaped pillows provide the best comfort to aching shoulders. Two of the best pillows for easing out shoulder pain are:

     1. Brooklyn Bedding Memory Foam Pillow

The pillow is suitable for both side and back sleepers. The adaptive memory foam material is infused with graphite and copper for maximum comfort and an advanced cooling effect. Based on your comfortability needs, you can choose either a 6 or a 4.5-inch loft pillow profile.

     2. MedCline Shoulder Relief System

The pillow is made with CertiPUR gel-infused memory foam. It has a patented design FSA, and HSA approved), suitable for both left and right hand sleeping. The pillow also includes a shoulder relief inclined wedge, an insert pillow, and a therapeutic body pillow that works as a complete set-up to eliminate night-time shoulder pain, end worsening of symptoms, and ensure better sleep. The removable case ensures hygienic sleeping.

What Type Of Mattress Is Best For Shoulder Pain?

For people who have shoulder pain, the mattress should neither be too firm nor too soft. Soft mattresses can injure your back and spine and don't provide the required support, while hard mattresses put more pressure on the shoulder joints. Though there is no industry standard, look for a medium-firm mattress. The mattress should provide a contouring effect to the body and support the spine, shoulders, neck, waist, and knees.

Why You Should Not Sleep On Sides For Shoulder Pain?

The shoulders tend to bear a lot of weight of the torso when you sleep on your sides. The problem of shoulder pain increases the wear and tear of cushions around the shoulder joints and, of course, age. Shoulder pain can also be caused due to unusual sleeping positions or strain during a workout. Some of the symptoms of shoulder pain include – localized tenderness, stiffness in the aching shoulder, swelling, and redness.

When you sleep on the sides for shoulder pain, you tend to put pressure on the aggrieved shoulder and increase the chances of worsening the symptoms. Prolonged side sleeping can also lead to cartilage breakdown, stiffness, painful clicking and popping, and shoulder osteoarthritis. Therefore, it is important to offload the shoulders to prevent further damage.

How To Sleep With Shoulder Pain On Both Sides?

The optimal sleeping position when you have shoulder pain on both sides is the 'superior position.' For maximum relief, place a small pillow between your shoulder blades and then sleep on your back.

How To Sleep With Shoulder Blade Pain?

Shoulder blade pain is often caused due to overuse of shoulder muscles, frozen shoulder, shoulder strain, shoulder arthritis, or rotator cuff tendonitis. Shoulder blade pain may exponentially increase at night due to gravity. As you lay down, the rotator cuff pulls and stretches, which may lead to worsening of the pain. For sleeping with shoulder blade pain, you may follow the same technique of sleeping on your back as with shoulder pain on both sides mentioned above.

cant sleep with shoulder pain

How To Sleep With Shoulder And Neck Pain?

Keeping your back and neck straight is important to reduce strain and pressure in these areas. If you have a stiff or sore neck and/or shoulder pain, here is what you go to do:

1. Use a cervical pillow to give support to your neck and keep your head in a neutral position.

2. The best sleeping positions for shoulder and neck pain are –

  • sleeping on your back with a slightly reclined position and pillows under your knees, and
  • sleeping in a fetal position.

You may also sleep on the non-aching side. Sleeping on your back keeps your spine in a neutral position and prevents excess stress on the shoulders and the neck.

3. Avoid using overly high pillows.

4. Put a pillow between your knees for better spine alignment.

5. Use an orthopedic pillow for relieving neck pain.


Shoulder pain can persist for weeks or even months. It can disrupt your daily activities and gradually cause severe discomfort. If the aforementioned recommendations do not help, consult an orthopedic doctor at the earliest. Based on the diagnosis, your doctor can prescribe different treatments, including physical therapy and medications for the relief of different types of shoulder pain.