Sleeping With Shoulder Pain


Sleeping With Shoulder Pain

Shoulder injuries are typically caused by sports and other daily activities that require excessive and repetitive overhead motions of the arm, such as swimming, tennis, hanging curtains and gardening. Most shoulder injuries are accompanied by stiffness in the shoulder, feeling a popping sensation in the socket when moving the arm, and experiencing a lack of strength in the shoulder when performing your daily activities.

The most common type of shoulder injuries include:

  • shoulder impingement,
  • shoulder Bursitis,
  • tendonitis in the shoulder muscles (Rotator Cuff Muscles),
  • rotator cuff muscle tears,
  • frozen shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis),
  • arthritis in the shoulder, and
  • referred pain from the neck to the shoulder.

The amount of pain experienced with these injuries can range from a dull ache to excruciatingly severe. This pain can affect how we function throughout the day, hindering our ability to drive, work, cook, and even sleep.

In many instances patients noticed that their shoulder pain increases at night especially when they are laying down. This makes it difficult to get a good night’s rest, as the pain may either wake the patient at night or make it impossible for them to get comfortable.

Shoulder pain typically increases at night for the following reasons:

  • Fatigue and strain of the muscles and joints, as well as irritation and inflammation of the bursa, from use of the shoulder during the day.
  • Direct pressure of the mattress on the shoulder when lying on your injured side, especially whilst asleep and still for a long time, compresses the structures of the shoulder.
  • Sleeping on the unaffected shoulder causes the injured side to be unstable and unsupported. The ball of the shoulder doesn’t sit properly in the socket, causing further impingement, muscle spasm and pain.
  • Sleeping with the arm above the head, across the body or in an altered unstable position can also cause pain and instability.



The following tips describe how the shoulder can be better supported at night.

Before getting into bed try:

  • to rest the shoulder as much as possible by avoiding aggravating movements such as reaching across your body, over your head, or carrying too much weight on the arm throughout the day, as this can reduce any inflammation at night;
  • to use a cold pack on the affected shoulder on and off all day and before getting into bed to decrease any localised inflammation; and
  • take anti-inflammatory medication as prescribed by the GP or a health care professional.

Once in bed make sure to:

  • hug a pillow in front of the body if sleeping on the non-painful shoulder. This will help prevent your injured shoulder from slumping forward and compressing its structures. This will also help to stabilize the shoulder joint;
  • place a pillow or rolled towel behind the body when in bed. This can help prevent the body rolling back into a position which will be uncomfortable for the injured shoulder thus disturbing sleep;
  • (if sleeping on the back) place a pillow or rolled up towel under the elbow on the affected side to elevate the elbow. This supports the ball and socket joint of the shoulder and prevents any strain to the muscles, ligaments, bursae and joint structures of the shoulder;
  • avoid sleeping on the stomach; and
  • use a comfortable pillow that ensures the neck is supported. This then alleviates any possible strain affecting the shoulder.

Here at OsteoVision we can help alleviate your shoulder pain through manipulation, massage and other musculoskeletal techniques designed to release restrictions in the shoulder and improve muscular stability.

Our team of specialists are always available to assist you and offer advice. Please contact us if you would like to discuss your symptoms, have any questions, would like to book an appointment or require more information about your condition.

Call:     03303 904300
You can also book an appointment online at

Nowak, G., 2019. Best Sleeping Position for Shoulder Pain – St Kilda Osteo. [online] St Kilda Osteopathy. Available at: Best Sleeping Position for Shoulder Pain [Accessed 29 January 2022]., 2009. Common Shoulder Injuries – OrthoInfo – AAOS. [online] Available at: Diseases Conditions Common Shoulder Injuries [Accessed 29 January 2022].