How to Relieve Shoulder Pain from Sleeping on Side?

Managing to fall or stay asleep while experiencing any kind of pain is almost impossible. But the pain in our shoulders, one of the most vulnerable joints in our body, can make our life a living hell. That’s because we need to be lying during the night, which creates certain pressure on this part of the arm, and it can be quite a challenge finding the position in which the pain will be less intense.

People who suffer from shoulder pain or rotator cuff injuries can almost never get comfortable enough to have a good night’s rest, and that can definitely be frustrating. Because of that, we decided to try explaining what the things that can lead to this kind of discomfort are, and what is that you can do in a case you didn’t manage to avoid experiencing shoulder pain at night.

What Causes Shoulder or Rotator Cuff Pain?

bad and good postureBad Posture

The absence of good posture can result in creating uneven pressure on ligaments, bones, and muscles. People who have forward head posture are most likely going to have shoulder pain at some point in their lives. Those are the ones who, instead of keeping the normal head level too often look down while bending the neck. One of the causes of this behavior is excessive usage of the smartphone. It would be great if you would sleep on a mattress for back sleepers. Those can make your life way easier simply based on providing your body with perfect alignment.


It’s quite common to have a tear in one of four muscles that make up the rotator cuff. Around two million people in the USA seek medical help because of it. This type of injury can happen as a result of a sudden fall, punch, or over time from some kind of repetitive motion. The crucial thing in that situation is to rest properly. If you decide to neglect and continue to stress this area, the injury may become even larger.

Repetitive Injuries

Quite a number of construction workers suffer from pain in their shoulders or rotator cuff injuries. The nature of their jobs made them critical group when it comes to these problems. The same is for professional athletes. But the movement that leads to this type of injury doesn’t have to be dangerous per se, it can be some small motion that repeats over and over again until you notice your shoulder is hurting all the time.

shoulder pain when sleeping


If you go beyond what your body is capable of handling, you may find yourself with an injury like this one. Because of overexertion, many athletes suffer from shoulder pain, but it can also happen to regular people who were reckless. For example, if you are an amateur playing tennis for a couple of hours, you can cause enough strain to make you feel the pain for the next couple of months.

Frozen Shoulder

No, this has nothing to do with cold or low temperature. We are talking about the condition that’s associated with the joint that suffers from immobility. It’s also known as adhesive capsulitis. This can sneak into your life very treacherously and subtly, and it can get worse over time. The frozen shoulder can pass by itself, but it will need a couple of years, or you can ask for medical help and speed up the process.


Although most older people meet with osteoarthritis, it can also happen to much younger folks. In the first case, it is caused by the age and degeneration that comes from an old-time injury, and in other genetic components is the one to be blamed. So make sure to check if your parents or grandparents had it. If the answer is yes, the chances of you getting it are huge.


There is nothing strange in the fact that with age, our bodies become more fragile. They simply begin to wear out, so pain in any part of the body can be a completely normal thing. That process can be slowed down by a healthy and active lifestyle, but it will catch us all at the end. You can expect something like this to start happening after you enter your forties.

what does rotator cuff pain feel likeDislocation

Because our shoulder joint is very mobile, it makes it suitable for common injuries. So, the situations where the humerus, which is the upper arm bone, gets bounce out of its socket is not that rare. If something like that happens, you need to visit a medical professional who knows how to put it back in place, after which the shoulder needs to be immobilized for quite some time. Sometimes the dislocation can lead to surgery.


This is a form of chronic tendinitis, a condition that occurs after some cellular tearing happens, but not the one in the tendons. It’s actually a degeneration of the tendon’s collagen because you overused it in a long period of time. It can be very tricky, and the pain can revive even with the most delicate movements like clicking a computer mouse. If you don’t give it time to rest and heal, tendinosis is a result.


Here, we are talking about irritation or inflammation of a tendon. That’s the thick fibrous cord that has the role of attaching the muscle to the bone. The condition may be the result of some motion repetition or the fact there are some constant micro-traumas. You will feel pain and tenderness just outside a joint. While tendinitis can affect any of our tendons, it will mostly cause pain in our elbows, shoulders, and knees.

Can Your Sleeping Position Cause Shoulder Pain?

If you like to sleep on your side, more than on your back or stomach, it’s more likely you will experience shoulder pain after sleeping. That’s because your torso gets stuck with most of your body weight. There are mattress models for side sleepers that can help with this problem, but they cannot prevent this from happening.

There is a study that shows almost 70 percent of people who had shoulder pain at night slept on the same body side when experiencing this type of inconvenience. But, the truth is that the sleeping position can only contribute to this issue, it cannot be the only thing to blame. There must be some kind of condition that causes your shoulder to suffer.

bad posture shoulder pain

How to Relieve Shoulder Pain while Sleeping?

Change Sleeping Position

You need to find the perfect position you are going to sleep in, the one that will relieve you from shoulder pain. If you are a side sleeper, try laying down on the other side of your body, and with a pillow between your arms that will keep the upper shoulder pressure-free. It’s very important to avoid tossing and turning during the night. If you land on your shoulder the wrong way at some point, you won’t be able to fall asleep because of the pain. So think about that and about purchasing an adequate mattress for neck and shoulder pain.

Do Shoulder Stretches

Exercising before going to bed can be great for your body since it will increase your blood flow, reduce pain, and make you feel relaxed. The best thing, however, given the specific situation, would be to practice some shoulder stretches that can reduce the tension from your arm. That will take only a couple of minutes, and it won’t ask for some special equipment. Here are the seven different stretches you should repeat every night:

Chin retractions – easily extend your neck outward, but make sure your chin stays parallel with the floor. Come back to the neutral position and repeat the stretch for 30 seconds.

Eagle arms – Sit down and cross your legs. Put your hands in front of you and place your elbow in the crook of the other arm. Make sure to bend the elbows so your hands can touch. Attach one hand to another in a way your palms face each other. Repeat the same exercise with the other hand.

Cow-face pose – Place your left palm in-between your shoulder blades, and then try reaching it with the right hand from the above. If you can, interlock them. Do this stretching again, just switch the hands.

woman exercise

Standing wall stretch – Stand in front of a wall and place both your hands on it. Move your body back, until the arms are straight. Make sure they are not above your head. Now relax and don’t push, just breath for 30 seconds. 

Shoulder blade stretch – Spread your feet, raise your arms above the head and place your palms together. Now, twist your waist just so you can bring one shoulder forward. Hold it like that, and switch sides.

Half dragonfly – Lay with your face down, and place the right hand on the floor like you are going to push. Then slide the other hand under your chest. Lay on top of your arm, and after 30 seconds, change the position to another one.

Triangle – Spread your legs and place your right foot forward. Turn the left foot in order to be perpendicular with another one, and raise your arms to the level of your shoulders. Stretch the right arm, and then bent forward over the right leg. You need to be parallel with the floor. Place your right hand on the calf, while extending the left one towards the ceiling.

Stick to Sleeping Schedule

Although it may not seem quite important or connected to this particular problem, remaining good sleep schedule can make sure you have a good night’s rest, regardless of the pain in your shoulder. That’s because your body will follow the same rhythm, and at the end of each day, it will easily slide into stress and tension-free zone. If you still didn’t create your bedtime rituals, try with a hot shower before bed, create pleasant dark surroundings, drink some caffeine-free hot beverages, etc. And make sure to sleep on adjustable beds that can answer all your needs.

Try Ice Compression Wrap

The ice wraps are something like ice packs but specially designed for shoulders. They will keep this area cool, which is a good thing, and the strap composition will keep the pack in its place the whole time. There are some advanced wraps with the ability to push the air inside, which will allow for more pressure and compression for your shoulder.

Ask for Medical Advice

If any of these suggestions don’t work as they should and relieve you from pain, you need to consult with the medical professional and see what’s next. They will provide you with the exact diagnosis and recommend the treatment – physical therapy, chiropractic care, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, joint injections, or surgery.

shoulder and neck painPrevention Tips

There are some things you can do in order to prevent having shoulder pain at night. First of all, you need to stop making certain repetitive motions like lifting or throwing something over and over again. But, if that’s something you cannot avoid because it’s a part of your job, for example, then at least try making some breaks from time to time. Maintaining your body in good shape is always a good idea. Try exercising more, because if the shoulder muscles are strong, they will keep you away from possible injury. Having adequate sleep ground won’t hurt as well. So make sure to get one of the best beds for you. And don’t forget to use a wheelbarrow for heavy loads.

Signs to Watch for

If you started experiencing a certain pain in the shoulder area, you should pay attention to all the details in order to make sure later on, you will get the proper diagnosis and treatment. The tricky part is that the shoulder joint pain can be caused by many different things, but they all can have similar symptoms. So make sure to precisely define the location and the extensiveness of the pain, to see if there is some swelling or stiffness if you find it hard to do everyday stuff or to move your arm.  

These things are very important because when it comes to arthritis, for example, you need to catch it at the beginning in order to prevent permanent damage to happen. So if you start experiencing some other things except the pain, like fever or chills, which can be caused by some kind of infection, you need to contact your doctor immediately. Also, you can start losing weight suddenly and find yourself having extreme night sweats. When it comes to the pain, you need to monitor it closely – if it’s constant for more than four days, or intermittently for around two weeks, it’s definitely time to pack your stuff and visit the medical center.

When to See Your Doctor?

Although some of these things mentioned above may qualify as enough for you to go and see the doctor, you definitely have to do that if the pain starts to be sudden or really severe, during the day or night. Also, if you are aware that it is caused by some specific injury, you should go and check it out. The situations when the pain is so strong that you start losing control over your movement, and it starts affecting your everyday life are more than enough to make you go and see the doctor.


Why do I experience shoulder pain only at night?

A few reasons may be the cause of this. First, the fact is that we all move a lot during the day, and then, when the night comes, we slow down, which decreases our blood flow, and the pain comes along. The second reason is that when you lay down, you will experience more weight on your shoulder. And the third thing is when you lay still, you are less distracted, and you can focus on the pain.

What can help me instantly when I experience shoulder pain at night?

You can take a pillow in the underarm area and make yourself a bit more comfortable. You will also need another under your head, and you’re your knees, just so you can make your body well aligned. If you need some extra support, roll one small towel and put it under your neck as well.

Should I put cold or hot coverings on the sore shoulder?

If you put ice on your painful shoulder, you will reduce the inflammation and unpleasant feeling. You can keep it for 15 or 20 minutes, remove it, and repeat the same thing every couple of hours. After a few days, when the pain is a bit improved, use a heating pad in order to relax tightened in your muscles.


We can only imagine how inconvenient it is to try sleeping with pain in this particular area, how it can be hard to find and hold onto a certain position that will allow you to rest and go through the night without feeling this kind of pressure. The fact is, there can be many causes for that, and it is crucial to find out the reason to apply an adequate treatment process and relieve yourself from this unpleasantness. 


Why Does Your Shoulder Hurt When You Sleep, and What Helps? –
How To Relieve Shoulder Pain At Night –