Shoulder Pain After Sleeping: Causes and Solutions

Shoulder Pain After Sleeping

Shoulder Pain From Sleeping on Side


The majority of people prefer to sleep on their sides. However, they experience shoulder pain after sleeping on their sides. Sleeping on your side indeed leads to shoulder pain. As a sleep cycle is around 8 hours, many sleep positions strain your shoulders.
This blog will guide you on how to avoid shoulder pain after sleeping on the side.

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Shoulder Pain After Sleeping- How to Sleep on Your Side Without Shoulder Pain?

How to sleep on your side without shoulder pain is a fundamental question when suffering from extreme pain. One of the methods to diagnose sleep issues can be via sleep testing. What if we tell you can get tested remotely through home sleep testing? It saves you costs and time when traveling. Moreover, a team of experts can help you identify sleep position issues and recommend the correct ones.

Here are a few tips that might help you to avoid shoulder pain after sleeping:

Reconsider your Mattress

Stiff mattresses might contribute to shoulder pain. If the pain appears mid- or late-night, a stiff mattress might be a big reason. Unfortunately, science has no solution for it. The only thing you can do is change your mattress.

Soft surfaces, such as memory foam mattresses, may be ideal for side sleepers but may cause neck strain for back sleepers since they allow the heavier body to sink in farther than the head. Soft mattress toppers can be another option if you wish to treat shoulder pain without changing your sleeping arrangement.

In-Home Remedies

You can opt for home remedies for treating shoulder pain after sleeping:

Shoulder Exercises:

Physical therapy techniques and exercises can help reduce stress and pain by strengthening the tendons and muscles in your shoulder. Workouts for a range of motion, rotator cuff strengthening, and upper extremity strengthening are workouts for the shoulder.

Ice Packs or Heat Bags:

A method to reduce shoulder pain is by using heat and ice on the painful areas. It depends on your symptoms. For instance, if you have shoulder arthritis or osteoarthritis, moist heat can relax your muscles and loosen stiff joints. However, applying an ice pack or cold compress can help reduce pain and swelling if you have a shoulder strain. After the initial swelling goes down, using heat can further relieve stiffness. Additionally, ice packs are significant in reducing inflammation for shoulder tendinitis.

Anti-inflammatory Drugs:

Over-the-counter analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs can also help reduce the discomfort of sore shoulders. Consider experimenting with over-the-counter medications such as Advil, Tylenol, Aleve, or Motrin.

Opt for the Right Pillow

Our body parts are connected uniquely. If one side gets hurt, the entire body suffers the pain.
Similarly, when talking about head pillows, if you are a side sleeper, the lying position should change as it can worsen the shoulder and neck pain.

Therefore, it is necessary to keep the right size pillow. If the pillow is small, your head may drop from the sides and cause neck strains. The ultimate solution is to opt for a thicker or sturdier pillow.

Strengthening the Shoulder

When shifting pillows and bedding doesn’t seem to help, and you find yourself waking up with severe shoulder pain, it might be time to think about starting a rehabilitation program. Speak with a professional as the first step in that process.

After doing several tests, experts will frequently focus on the rotator cuff because it is a frequent cause of shoulder difficulties.

Also read: Body Changes After CPAP Machine: Body Changes Explained.

Why Do You Experience Shoulder Pain from Sleeping on Your Side?

According to research, around 10% of US people are waking up with shoulder pain. In most cases, shoulder pain is due to sleeping position, but it can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition.

There are many underlying reasons behind the discomfort linked with sleeping position:

Rotator Cuff Injury

A rotator cuff injury can occur when the tendons in the rotator cuff become irritated and inflamed, called tendinitis, or when they become partially or completely torn. Moreover, sleeping on your side can worsen rotator cuff injury symptoms, including dull pain or aches in the shoulder and stiffness that limits your range of motion. Consequently, this pain can disrupt sleep and increase when you use your shoulder. Therefore, it is necessary to avoid shoulder pain after sleeping.

Shoulder Bursitis

Bursae are fluid-filled sacs found throughout the body. They cushion the tissues around our joints and are one of the most common areas affected by bursitis. Shoulder bursitis occurs when these sacs in the shoulder become irritated and inflamed. Although bursitis can happen in any body part where bursae are present, the shoulder is one of the most common areas affected. Symptoms of shoulder bursitis include redness, swelling, stiffness in the shoulder, pain that gets worse with movement, tenderness in the area, and increased pain when pressure is applied.

Surgeries or Injuries

One significant reason for pain from sleeping on your arm is having previous injuries. These could be sudden injuries from factors like a car accident or long-lasting issues from a gym or sports incident.

Additionally, recovering from surgery can also cause shoulder pain at night. Luckily, you can adjust your sleeping position to ease this pain. So, it provides fundamental guidance to shoulder pain after sleeping.


Shoulder osteoarthritis is the degeneration and breakdown of the shoulder’s cartilage, which cushions between the bones. Although shoulder osteoarthritis can develop as people age, it can also result from prior trauma or injury.

Symptoms of shoulder osteoarthritis can include stiffness, decreased range of motion, and pain that frequently worsens with movement. Moreover, shoulder clicking or grinding sounds may be a symptom of certain osteoarthritis types in the shoulder. Knowing shoulder pain after sleeping solutions is essential.

Shoulder Impingement

The rotator cuff’s surrounding tissues rub or grind against adjacent bones or tissue. Bone spurs, bursitis, or tendinitis could be the source of this rubbing. Shoulder impingement typically results in pain at the top or outer edge of the shoulder and a generalized weakening in the shoulder.

When to Seek Professional Help

It’s important to note when shoulder pain may indicate a more serious issue. If you experience severe pain, persistent pain that doesn’t improve with home remedies, or trouble moving your arm, it’s time to seek professional help.


To conclude, addressing shoulder pain after sleeping is essential for a good night’s sleep and overall well-being. Several solutions are available for shoulder pain from sleeping on your side, like opting for the right pillow or mattress, adjusting the sleeping positions, incorporating exercises and stretches, making lifestyle adjustments, etc.

If you want to rejuvenate your peaceful sleep, Home Sleep Center offers remote sleep testing through a team of professionals. Contact us today to identify your sleep issues and regain your peaceful sleep.

Home Sleep Center Team

Home Sleep Center Team