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Shoulder Pain From Sleeping On Side

Shoulder Pain - Side Sleeping

If you’re a side sleeper, how many times have you woke up only to find an immense pain at your shoulder? Shoulder pain from sleeping on the side is one of the most common issues that side sleepers without a suitable mattress often face. Many individuals, myself included, tend to sleep on the side with one arm placed underneath the pillow or their head. In addition to this sleeping posture, sleeping only on one side (left or right side) all the time are two of the most common contributing factors to shoulder pain. Both these actions not only wears down cartilage in your joint, but can also stiffen your shoulder muscles. Consequently, when you wake up in the morning, a sharp pain is often felt in the shoulder area. While this feeling of pain is often brief and goes away by itself, such sleeping postures can lead to the inflammation of the tendons (or tendinitis), muscles and joints and in serious cases, can lead to muscle tear.

Shoulder Pain from Shoulder Bursitis

There are two common shoulder injuries that are caused by continuous, improper sleeping postures. The first is known as shoulder bursitis – the inflammation or irritation of the bursa. The bursa as a sac filled with lubricating fluid, located between tissues such as bone, muscle and tendons with the purpose of decreasing friction between these different tissues. You can think of the bursa as a lubricating agent, just like how engine oil reduces unwanted friction between moving parts in your car’s engine. The symptoms start with pain, which can build up over time or be sudden and severe. This pain is usually followed by a loss of motion in the shoulder. An inflamed bursa can usually be treated by avoiding activities or sleeping in positions that can aggravate the problem ad icing the area of injury. Always be wary that sleeping exclusive on the side with no pain can lead to shoulder bursitis on that side as well! As such, if your tendency is to sleep on your side, it will be better to temporarily sleep on your back or on your stomach until you have recovered.

Shoulder Pain from Rotator Cuff Injury

The second injury that can be the cause behind the shoulder pain experienced while sleeping on the side is rotator cuff injury or tendinitis (also known as the inflammation of the tendons). Rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. The pain felt by an aggravated is typically a dull ache in the shoulder area and can restrict the range of your shoulder movement. Just like treating shoulder bursitis, you’ll need to make sure you are not sleeping on your injured side and at the same time, continue icing the affected area to reduce discomfort and pain.

Importance of a Supportive Mattress

Although both of these shoulder injuries are often caused by repetitive sleeping on one side, a major factor that plays an important part is your mattress. Most of the times in which I woke up feeling a pain in my shoulder can be attributed to the firmness of the mattress that I slept on the night before. Side sleepers that sleep on a mattress that is too firm often experience shoulder pain due to the stress exerted on your shoulder not only by your body weight, but also by the mattress. A side sleeper would ideally sleep on a mattress that is on the medium or soft-to-medium firmness. This ensures that the shoulder is well-cushioned by your mattress. Besides that, it is extremely important to pick out a mattress that contours and conforms to the shape of your body to ensure maximum support. The two most common types of mattresses that best suit individuals that sleep on the side are memory foam and latex mattresses. This is because these two types of mattresses come with features that contour to the body’s shape. Certain hybrid type mattresses, which make use of memory foam and latex materials have recently entered the market and are suitable for individuals who sleep on their sides as well.

The shoulder pain you feel from sleeping on your side is a result of shoulder injuries which can not only be uncomfortable and inconvenient, but can also take some time to heal. Making sure you are not repetitively sleeping on one side of your body as well as making sure you have a supportive mattress are keys to avoid shoulder injuries while asleep. With so many different mattresses out there in the market today, it can be an overwhelming task to select a suitable one for a side sleeper. I’ve done the work for you and selected the best mattresses for side sleepers so you don’t have to spend hours of research on the topic.


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