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Shoulder pain from sleeping on side

Shoulder Pain from Sleeping? Here Are Possible Reasons Why and What You Can Do

Why do you have shoulder pain from sleeping? Is it just about the position that you take or are there other factors in play? Does this have any kind of negative long-term effect?

These are just some of the questions that need to be answered as soon as possible. After all, if there are some long-term negative effects, you need to rectify your sleeping habits, as soon as possible. Moreover, this is a serious issue and something that could seriously ruin your quality of life. If the fix is really something simple, wouldn’t you want to know the answer?

Here are several simple facts and rules to help you solve this problem for good.

What Causes Shoulder Pain?

Where does the shoulder and arm pain after sleeping on the side come from? Generally speaking, there are several physiological causes of this ailment. The most common are:

  • Rotator cuff injury
  • Shoulder bursitis
  • Shoulder impingement syndrome
  • Osteoarthritis of the shoulder
  • Frozen shoulder

While all of the above-listed can happen regardless of your sleeping position, the truth is that a bad sleeping pose makes things worse. The solution is always the same. First, you need to go to your preferred physician, then we can work to improve your sleeping habits.

It’s also worth mentioning that shoulder pain usually doesn’t happen on its own. More likely than not, you’ll have issues with the upper extremities, in general.

Why Do You Have Shoulder Pain from Sleeping in the Wrong Position? 

Empirically, it should be more than evident that sleeping on your side may cause pain in your shoulder. The reason behind this is the fact that, while you’re sleeping, the majority of your torso’s weight is on your shoulder.

While this is something you may already know, there’s also scientific proof that your sleep position affects the frequency and intensity of your shoulder pain.

The solution to this problem would, therefore, be adopting a better sleeping position.

Optimal sleeping position 

One of the simplest solutions to shoulder pain from sleeping on the side is to move into a superior position. All you need is a small pillow that you can nest between your shoulder blades while sleeping on your back.

Training yourself for sleeping on your back

For some people, sleeping on your back is a mission impossible. Fortunately, you can train yourself to sleep on your back.

  • First off, you need to get the right mattress that supports the pose of lying flat.
  • Second, you need a good pillow in order to get adequate support for your neck.
  • Third, you might want to add extra pillows under your knees and/or lower back.
  • Fourth, if you have enough room, you could spread your arms and legs a bit.
  • Bonus tip, you could even encircle yourself with pillows (building a sort of a pillow fort) in order to create a physical barrier to prevent you from turning.

Sure, some may describe this as too much effort but those who woke up with shoulder pain this morning will be more than willing to accept this deal.

Other benefits of sleeping on your back 

Other than just helping you with your back pain, there are a few other benefits to sleeping on your back.

  • Your spine has a better alignment
  • Tension headaches are less likely
  • Sinus buildup is less likely
  • Less irritation for your facial skin
  • In other words, it’s definitely a habit worth developing.

Also, it’s crucial that you understand one thing – there’s no such thing as an ideal pose for X shoulder pain problem, that wouldn’t work in the case of a Y shoulder pain problem. The best sleeping position for shoulder impingement is also the best pose for frozen shoulder or shoulder bursitis. It’s a universal solution to your shoulder pain problem (as long as sleeping is the main issue).

Talk to a Professional

There’s one more reason why it’s so important that you visit a professional if this problem is recurring. You see, there are a lot of people who sleep on the side without ever suffering from shoulder pain. So, going to a clinic or scheduling an appointment with a shoulder specialist is definitely the best way to determine why you are experiencing shoulder pain from sleeping.

Additional Risk Factors 

It’s worth mentioning that there are quite a few illnesses and diseases that are likely causing the pain to get worse. For instance, frozen shoulders may also be caused by diabetes, stroke, thyroid disorders, shoulder injuries, Parkinson’s disease, and even cancer.

Other risk factors that make shoulder ache more likely are your age, sex, and family history of diseases like osteoarthritis. Inflammation around the joint and muscular imbalance of the shoulder is also likely to make things worse.

Again, shoulder pain can also be caused just by your sleeping position. It’s still worth checking it out.

Long-term Effects 

The fact that you woke up with shoulder pain wouldn’t be such a big problem, if not for the fact that it could happen again and again. Sleeping in a bad position could permanently damage your joints if you aren’t careful. The constant pressure would eventually lead to structural damage and the worst part is that this comes so gradually that you wouldn’t even notice something’s off until it’s too late.

Remember, pain is a warning sign and it needs to be treated as such. Enduring shoulder pain is not normal or acceptable and you need to start looking for a solution as soon as possible.

Key Takeaways 

At the end of the day, suffering shoulder pain from sleeping is merely a warning sign. This pain warns you that you need to check your shoulder and change your sleeping posture as soon as possible. Sure, a single instance of shoulder ache after sleeping uncomfortably isn’t that alarming. Still, if this keeps happening, it’s usually for the best not to take any chances. The solution is simple, inexpensive, and can save you from a world of trouble in the future.

So, when in doubt, you should find a shoulder specialist at the Orthopedic Institute of NJ and ask for a quote.

This article was reviewed and approved by an orthopedic surgeon as we place a high premium on accuracy for our patients and potential patients.