Why do I have shoulder pain from sleeping on my side?

Shoulder Pain From Sleeping on Side

Many people find that they wake up tired, sore and uncomfortable after a night of sleeping on their side. Even if you have slept on your side all your life, you may wake one day to find that your shoulder is in pain, and you didn’t get a good night’s sleep. A lack of sleep will not only make you feel tired and groggy during the day, it could actually make your aching shoulder feel worse. Studies have shown that the loss of even one night’s sleep can increase the levels of inflammation in the body. 

Why am I experiencing shoulder pain from sleeping on my side?

Waking up with a painful shoulder could be caused by a number of things. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Rotator cuff injury — If your shoulder hurts when you sleep on your side, you may have experienced an injury to the muscles in your shoulder. Your rotator cuff, the muscles that allow your shoulder to move freely, can become injured from repetitive use or a sudden impact. If you play sports, or you have recently been in a car accident, you may have injured your rotator cuff without realizing it.
  • Sleeping on only one side — Many people sleep on their sides. However, sleeping too often or too much on the same side can put excessive stress on the shoulder. A recent study showed that 67% of the patients that experienced shoulder pain had a habit of always sleeping on the same shoulder.
  • Osteoarthritis of the shoulder — Osteoarthritis of the shoulder is very common in people over 65 years of age. As we age, the cartilage between our joints becomes thinner. This causes the joints to rub against one another, causing pain and stiffness in the joints. Shoulder osteoarthritis combined with sleeping on the affected shoulder can lead to increased shoulder pain when you first wake up.

What can I do to prevent shoulder pain from sleeping on my side?

There are several things you can do at home to help reduce the pain you feel after sleeping on your side.

  • Sleep on your back — Sleeping on your back can help prevent you from putting a lot of weight on your shoulder. This position is easy and comfortable for most people to keep throughout the night, and it can also help prevent back and neck pain.
  • Use extra pillows for support — Having extra pillows around you can prevent you from accidentally rolling onto your shoulder while you sleep. Placing a cushion underneath the affected shoulder or arm may also help avoid putting any strain on the area.
  • Use a heating pad before bed — Direct heat can help improve the blood flow to your shoulder muscles. This can help with relieving pain and keeping the muscles more flexible.

Can physical therapy help with shoulder pain from sleeping on my side?

While simple at-home practices can help make your shoulder pain more bearable, it is recommended that you seek treatment to help with the underlying cause of your shoulder pain from sleeping on your side. That is where a licensed physical therapist can help.

At Armor Physical Therapy, we can help pinpoint the cause of your shoulder pain and work with you to develop a physical therapy plan specially suited to your needs. Using tried and proven physical therapy methods such as manual therapy, therapeutic exercises, dry needling, and more, we can help to reduce your pain, strengthen your body and restore your flexibility.

If you’re ready to get a good night’s sleep again, contact us today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment. 

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