How to Sleep with Shoulder Pain: Tips for Relief and Comfort


For active parents, knowing how to sleep with shoulder pain is essential for maintaining your daily routine and overall well-being. Shoulder pain can result from various conditions such as rotator cuff injuries, frozen shoulder, or shoulder impingement syndrome. Finding the right sleeping position and making a few adjustments can significantly improve your restful night’s sleep.

Identifying the cause of shoulder pain and how posture can help prevent further discomfort will be discussed in this blog post, as well as strategies for adjusting sleeping positions to reduce pressure on the affected joint. We will also delve into effective strategies for adjusting your sleeping position to alleviate pressure on the affected joint.

Additionally, you’ll learn about using pillows for targeted support and why considering chiropractic care may be beneficial in managing persistent shoulder pain while improving sleep quality. By understanding these techniques on how to sleep with shoulder pain, you can enjoy a good night’s rest without compromising your active lifestyle.

Table of Contents:

1. Identifying Shoulder Pain

If you’re an active person, chances are you’ve experienced shoulder pain at some point in your life. This common issue can be caused by various factors such as rotator cuff injuries, frozen shoulder, or even poor posture. Knowing how to identify the signs and symptoms of shoulder pain is crucial for finding relief and preventing further damage.

  • Persistent aching: An aching sensation that doesn’t go away could indicate a problem with your shoulder joint or muscles.
  • Limited range of motion: If it’s difficult to move your arm without experiencing pain, this may be due to rotator cuff problems or other underlying conditions.
  • Night pain: Experiencing increased discomfort when lying down could signify issues like bursitis or impingement syndrome.
  • Weakened strength: Struggling to lift objects or perform daily tasks might suggest muscle imbalances within the affected area.

Consulting with a healthcare expert is essential if any of these signs are familiar, so they can correctly diagnose the cause of your distress and suggest suitable treatment methods. In addition to medical intervention, there are several strategies you can implement at home - starting with adjusting how you sleep - that will help alleviate nighttime shoulder pain while promoting restful slumber.

Avoid Sleeping on Your Affected Side

Sleeping directly on the affected shoulder puts unnecessary pressure on already inflamed tissues surrounding the joint. To prevent making matters worse during bedtime hours, try sleeping on your back instead (with a small pillow under your affected arm for support) or on the opposite side of your body.

Be Mindful of Your Sleep Position

Poor sleep positions can exacerbate shoulder pain, making it difficult to achieve a good night’s sleep. Side sleepers should avoid sleeping on the affected shoulder and instead sleep on their back or the opposite side. Back sleepers can place a small pillow under their neck and a rolled-up towel under their affected shoulder for support. Additionally, using a wedge pillow can help keep your upper body elevated and reduce pain.

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

Poor sleep habits can exacerbate shoulder pain, making it difficult to achieve a good night’s rest. Establishing a consistent bedtime routine that includes winding down before bed and creating an environment conducive to relaxation will help improve both the quality and quantity of your sleep - ultimately reducing nighttime discomfort associated with shoulder conditions.

Don’t Neglect Physical Therapy

If you’re dealing with persistent shoulder pain due to injury or chronic issues like frozen shoulder, working closely with a physical therapist can be incredibly beneficial in restoring strength, flexibility, and overall function within the area. Incorporating targeted exercises into your daily regimen will not only alleviate symptoms but also minimize the risk of future complications related to poor joint health.

Diagnosing shoulder pain can be challenging, yet with the proper direction it is feasible to reach a precise determination. Posture plays a key role in how we experience shoulder discomfort and should not be overlooked when seeking relief from chronic pain.

Key Takeaway:

Identifying shoulder pain is crucial for finding relief and preventing further damage. Sleeping on your back or opposite side, using a small pillow under the affected arm, and practicing good sleep hygiene can alleviate nighttime shoulder pain. Additionally, working with a physical therapist to incorporate targeted exercises into your daily regimen will restore strength, flexibility, and overall function within the area.

2. Posture Matters

Proper posture plays a crucial role in preventing and alleviating shoulder pain while sleeping. Maintaining good posture throughout the day helps keep your spine aligned, reduces stress on your muscles and joints, and can ultimately lead to a more restful night’s sleep.

Achieving Proper Posture During the Day

  • Maintain an upright position: Whether you’re sitting or standing, make sure that your back is straight, shoulders are pulled back slightly, and chin is parallel to the floor.
  • Avoid slouching: Slouching can strain your neck and shoulder muscles, leading to increased pain at night. Be mindful of maintaining proper alignment throughout the day.
  • Take breaks: If you have a sedentary job or spend long hours in one position (such as working on a computer), take regular breaks to stretch and move around. This will help prevent stiffness in your shoulder joint that could worsen nighttime discomfort.

Sleeping Posture Tips for Shoulder Pain Relief

To ensure better sleep hygiene and less shoulder pain during bedtime, consider these tips:

  1. Lie flat on your back: This sleeping position evenly distributes weight across both shoulders, which can reduce pressure on painful areas like rotator cuff injuries or frozen shoulder conditions. Place a small pillow under your knees for added support if needed.
  2. Avoid sleeping on your affected shoulder: Sleeping on your affected shoulder can worsen pain and delay healing. Instead, try sleeping on your opposite side or back.
  3. Use a pillow for support: If you prefer sleeping on your side, place a pillow between your affected arm and body to reduce pressure on the shoulder joint. You can also use a small pillow to support your neck and keep your spine aligned.
  4. Try a wedge pillow: If you have shoulder impingement syndrome or other shoulder conditions that require you to sleep upright, a wedge pillow can provide the necessary support and elevation for a good night’s sleep.

Remember, if you experience shoulder pain that persists despite these tips, it’s important to seek medical attention. Your chiropractor or physical therapist can help diagnose and treat the underlying cause of your shoulder pain, which may include rotator cuff problems, shoulder bursitis, or other shoulder injuries that require surgery.

Good posture is key to avoiding shoulder pain while sleeping, so adjusting your sleep position can help further reduce the discomfort. For a more restful night, it’s essential to be aware of how you can modify your sleep practices for optimal comfort and support.

3. Adjust Your Sleeping Position

Adjusting one’s sleeping position can be beneficial in decreasing shoulder pain and facilitating a restful sleep. There are several positions that can help prevent shoulder pain and alleviate existing issues such as rotator cuff injuries, frozen shoulder, or shoulder impingement syndrome. Let’s explore some of these options:

a) Sleep on the Unaffected Side

One simple solution is to avoid sleeping on the affected shoulder altogether. Instead, try side sleeping on your unaffected side with a small pillow between your knees for added support. This will not only reduce pressure on the painful shoulder joint but also promote proper spinal alignment.

b) Back Sleeping

Back sleepers tend to experience less neck and head pain compared to other positions. To further reduce strain on the shoulders, use a pillow under each arm while lying flat in the back sleeping position.

c) Upright Position (Reclined)

Sometimes it may be helpful to sleep upright or semi-reclined using an adjustable bed or wedge pillow. This position can provide relief from conditions like frozen shoulder, bursitis, or rotator cuff problems by minimizing compression within the joint.

  • Note: While these suggestions may offer temporary relief from nighttime discomfort caused by various types of shoulder pain, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment of the underlying issue.

Remember that everyone is different, so what works for one person may not be effective for another. It might take some trial and error to find the perfect sleep position that provides relief from your shoulder pain. Try out different arrangements of pillows, sleeping postures and sleep routines to find what works best for you.

If adjusting your sleep position doesn’t provide enough relief or if your shoulder pain worsens despite these changes, it may be time to seek professional help. Consult a physician or physical therapist who can recommend appropriate treatments such as exercises, stretches, or even surgery in more severe cases.

Changing your sleeping posture can be a successful technique to lessen shoulder pain and uneasiness. To further improve your sleep quality, using pillows for support is a great next step.

Key Takeaway:

Adjusting your sleeping position can help alleviate shoulder pain caused by rotator cuff injuries, frozen shoulder, or impingement syndrome. Sleeping on the unaffected side with a small pillow between your knees or using an adjustable bed/wedge pillow to sleep upright/reclined can provide relief. However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment if the pain persists.

4. Use Pillows for Support

Shoulder pain can make it difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position, but using pillows strategically can provide extra support and help alleviate discomfort. By adjusting the placement of pillows around your body, you can create an environment that promotes a restful night’s sleep, even with shoulder pain.

A. Pillow Under Your Head

To support your head and prevent pain, place a pillow beneath it at the right height to keep your spine aligned. This will not only help prevent head pain, but also reduce strain on your neck and shoulders. Make sure the pillow isn’t too high or too low - aim for just enough height to keep your spine aligned.

B. Pillow Between Your Knees (For Side Sleepers)

If you’re a side sleeper, try placing a small pillow between your knees while keeping both legs slightly bent at the hips and knees. This helps maintain proper spinal alignment and reduces pressure on the affected shoulder joint.

C. Hugging A Pillow (For Side Sleepers)

  • Hug another pillow in front of you while lying on your unaffected side; this will prevent rolling onto the painful shoulder during sleep.
  • If lying on the affected side, place a firm pillow against your chest so that there’s less weight bearing down directly onto the painful area.

D. Wedge Pillow (For Back Sleepers)

Wedge pillows are ideal for back sleepers, as they can help elevate the upper body and reduce pressure on the shoulder muscles. Place a wedge pillow under your head and upper back to create an incline, which may alleviate some of the pain caused by conditions like shoulder impingement syndrome or frozen shoulder.

E. Pillow Under Your Arm (For All Sleepers)

No matter what position you sleep in, placing a small pillow underneath your affected arm can provide additional support and cushioning for the painful area. This helps take some weight off the injured joint while also preventing further strain.

Incorporating these pillow techniques into your nightly routine can make a significant difference in managing shoulder pain. Try different combos until you find what works best for your individual needs.

Using pillows to support your body while sleeping can help alleviate shoulder pain. Additionally, considering chiropractic care may be beneficial in providing further relief from shoulder discomfort.

Key Takeaway:

Strategically using pillows can help alleviate shoulder pain while sleeping. Placing a pillow under the head, between the knees (for side sleepers), hugging a pillow (for side sleepers), using a wedge pillow (for back sleepers), and placing a small pillow underneath the affected arm can all provide additional support and cushioning for the painful area. Experiment with different combinations to find what works best for you.

5. Consider Chiropractic Care

If you’re struggling with shoulder pain that’s affecting your sleep, it might be time to consider chiropractic care. Chiropractors are experts in diagnosing and treating a variety of shoulder conditions, including rotator cuff injuries, frozen shoulder, and shoulder impingement syndrome. By addressing the root cause of your pain, chiropractic care can help you achieve a more restful night’s sleep.

The Benefits of Chiropractic Care for Shoulder Pain

  • Pain Relief: A chiropractor can provide targeted adjustments to realign the affected joint and reduce inflammation in the surrounding muscles and tissues. Through chiropractic adjustments, the affected joint can be realigned to reduce inflammation and provide both short-term relief and long-term improvement in functionality.
  • Improved Mobility: Regular chiropractic treatments can help restore normal range of motion in your affected shoulder by breaking up adhesions and scar tissue that may have formed due to injury or chronic inflammation.
  • Better Sleep: As your pain subsides and mobility improves, you’ll likely find it easier to get comfortable at night - leading to better sleep quality overall.
  • Natural Treatment Option: Unlike medications or surgery, chiropractic care offers a non-invasive approach to managing shoulder pain without unwanted side effects or risks associated with other interventions.

Finding the Right Chiropractor for Your Needs

For a reliable chiropractor who specializes in shoulder issues, seek out recommendations from people you know or read online reviews. Ask friends or family members if they have any recommendations, or consult online reviews to find a reputable practitioner in your area.

During your initial consultation, be sure to discuss your symptoms and sleep concerns with the chiropractor. They may do a comprehensive analysis of your shoulder joint and potentially suggest further diagnostic tests such as X-rays or MRI scans to determine the precise source of your ache. Based on their findings, they’ll develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to address both your immediate discomfort and long-term wellness goals.

Complementary Therapies for Shoulder Pain Relief

In addition to chiropractic care, you might also consider incorporating other complementary therapies into your routine for added relief from shoulder pain while sleeping. Some options include:

  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can help you learn specific exercises designed to strengthen the muscles around the affected joint and improve overall function.
  • Massage therapy: Regular massages can help reduce muscle tension and promote relaxation - making it easier for you to fall asleep at night without pain interrupting your rest.
  • Heat/Cold Therapy: Applying heat packs or ice packs as needed can provide temporary relief from inflammation-related discomfort before bedtime.

Key Takeaway:

Consider chiropractic care for shoulder pain that affects your sleep. Chiropractors can diagnose and treat various shoulder conditions, providing pain relief, improved mobility, better sleep quality, and a natural treatment option without unwanted side effects or risks associated with other interventions. Complementary therapies such as physical therapy, massage therapy, and heat/cold therapy may also provide added relief from shoulder pain while sleeping.

FAQs in Relation to How to Sleep With Shoulder Pain

How to Relieve Shoulder Pain While Sleeping

If you experience shoulder pain while sleeping, it can be difficult to get a restful night’s sleep. Here are some tips to help reduce pain and improve sleep:

  • Try applying ice or heat to the affected area
  • Stretch gently before bed
  • Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications
  • Adjust your sleep position and use pillows for support

If your pain persists, consider consulting a healthcare professional or chiropractor for further evaluation and treatment.

What Causes Shoulder Pain to Worsen at Night?

Shoulder pain may worsen at night due to increased pressure on the joint when lying down, inflammation in the rotator cuff tendons or bursae, poor posture during sleep, and lack of movement causing stiffness. Addressing these factors through proper sleep positioning and maintaining good posture throughout the day can help reduce nighttime discomfort.

Why is My Shoulder Too Painful to Sleep?

A severely painful shoulder could be caused by an injury such as a rotator cuff tear or tendonitis, arthritis, frozen shoulder, nerve compression, or other underlying medical conditions. If you’re experiencing intense pain that disrupts your ability to sleep comfortably despite trying various remedies like adjusting positions and using supportive pillows, consult with a healthcare professional for further evaluation.

What are the Warning Signs of a Rotator Cuff Tear?

The two common warning signs of a rotator cuff tear include sudden onset of sharp arm or upper back pain following an injury event (e.g., lifting heavy objects) and difficulty raising the arm above head level without significant discomfort. Other symptoms may include weakness in the affected arm and clicking sounds when moving it. If you suspect a rotator cuff tear, seek medical attention promptly.

Remember, preventing shoulder pain is always better than treating it. Maintaining good posture, avoiding sleeping on the affected shoulder, and engaging in regular exercise to strengthen the shoulder muscles can help prevent shoulder pain and injuries.


Experiencing shoulder pain can be a painful and uncomfortable condition that affects your ability to sleep. Pinpointing the source of shoulder pain is critical for achieving a restful sleep. Posture matters, so adjusting your sleeping position and using pillows for support can reduce pain and discomfort while you sleep. Additionally, considering chiropractic care can provide long-term relief from shoulder pain.

If you’re struggling with how to sleep with shoulder pain, don’t suffer alone. Grand Health Chiropractic offers expert care and treatment options for various conditions affecting the shoulders. Schedule an appointment today to start enjoying a good night’s sleep again!