Shoulder Pain from Sleeping

by Sam Malone

Most people lie down on their side when sleeping, rather than on their backs or on their stomachs. In fact, studies into sleeping positions have found that people prefer to sleep on one side of their bodies more than on the other. The problem with this is that constantly sleeping on one side will give rise to stiffness and shoulder pain. Coupled with the fact that most people lead a very sedentary lifestyle without much exercise, their problem is only exacerbated. Sometimes, shoulder pain can also be caused due to other reasons such as an injury or constantly working with the elbows above shoulder height. Most cases of shoulder pain, however, deal with sleeping on one side always.

One way to avoid sleep related shoulder aches is to change ones sleeping posture. Studies have showed that people either face towards their partners or away and stay in the same position throughout the slumber. The pain need not necessarily be caused due to an injury to the shoulder joints; very often it is probably just a lack of blood flow to the affected joint. The problem is that if measures are not taken to rectify this problem at the beginning itself, it can lead to stiffness and a restriction of movement in the joint.

Lying on the back with a thin pillow supporting the head is another good remedy. Lying on the back evenly distributes the body weight, putting less pressure on any one portion of the body. Also, people who work in front of a computer are at a much higher risk because it has been found that more than 75% of all people prefer to sleep on their right shoulder. Considering that most people are also right handed and that working with the mouse tends to cause problems such as carpel tunnel and rotator cuff problems, just choosing the right shoulder to sleep on can hasten or worsen a developing problem.

Generally, the pain is not of very long duration and invariably goes away within a few minutes after waking. The pain is also localized and does not extend to below the elbow. If it does, it is probably some other problem and you need to check with a doctor immediately.


There is no treatment needed for pain that comes from sleeping on one shoulder. Avoiding sleeping on the painful shoulder is usually sufficient to remove discomfort in less than a week’s time. If the pain is too severe, doctors may prescribe pain killers and/or anti-inflammatory medication that will help control the pain. Only in case of damage to the tendons of the rotator cuff tendons, will it be necessary to go in for medical intervention. Even here, if the damage is very minor, it heals by itself with rest to the shoulder. A severe tear may require surgery to correct the problem and prevent freezing of the joint.

There are no recommended sleeping positions for shoulder pain, except to avoid sleeping on the painful shoulder. It must be noted that just sleeping on one shoulder does not cause shoulder pain, it is only constant and prolonged sleeping on the same shoulder that causes the pain. People who change their sleeping positions frequently are never in danger of pain in their shoulder. While sleeping on the back can solve shoulder pain problems, it can give rise to other problems such as snoring, which is one of the reasons why people prefer to sleep on their sides.

Lastly, exercise helps by strengthening the muscles of the joint and also improving blood flow, thereby reducing pain that comes due to a blockage in the blood supply.



Warning: The reader of this article should exercise all precautionary measures while following instructions on the home remedies from this article. Avoid using any of these products if you are allergic to it. The responsibility lies with the reader and not with the site or the writer.
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