Why Sleeping on Your Side Causes Shoulder Pain and How to Relieve It

Why Sleeping on Your Side Causes Shoulder Pain and How to Relieve It

Why Sleeping on Your Side Causes Shoulder Pain and How to Relieve It


Do you often wake up with a sore shoulder after sleeping on your side? You’re not alone! Many people experience shoulder pain from sleeping on their side, but not everyone understands why it happens. In this blog post, we’ll explain why side sleeping can cause shoulder pain and provide tips to relieve it. If you’re looking for physical therapy services in Winter Park, we recommend B Physical Therapy to help you manage any lingering pain.


Shoulder Anatomy

To understand why sleeping on your side causes shoulder pain, it’s important to know the shoulder anatomy. The shoulder is a complex joint made up of bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and their tendons that connect the upper arm bone to the shoulder blade. When you sleep on your side, your top arm rests on your shoulder, putting pressure on the rotator cuff muscles and tendons. This pressure can cause discomfort and pain.

Sleeping Posture

The way you sleep can also contribute to shoulder pain. If you sleep with your arm above your head or under your pillow, you’re putting more pressure on the rotator cuff muscles and tendons. The best sleeping posture is to sleep on your back with a pillow under your head and one under your knees. If you prefer sleeping on your side, try placing a pillow between your arms to keep your top arm from pressing down on your shoulder.

Shoulder Stretches

Performing shoulder stretches regularly can help reduce shoulder pain from side sleeping. Try these simple stretches to help loosen up your shoulder muscles:

  • Shoulder blade squeeze
    Sit or stand with your arms at your sides. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for 10 seconds.
  • Cross-body arm stretch
    Bring one arm across your body and hold it with your other arm for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
  • Wall push-ups
    Stand facing a wall with your hands placed shoulder-width apart. Lean forward and push your chest toward the wall, keeping your feet planted on the ground.

Physical Therapy

If your shoulder pain persists despite these tips, physical therapy may be necessary. A physical therapist can evaluate your shoulder and develop a personalized treatment plan to help reduce pain and improve mobility. They may recommend exercises to strengthen your shoulder muscles, manual therapy to help reduce pain and improve joint mobility, and modalities like heat or ice to alleviate pain.



Sleeping on your side is a comfortable position for many people, but it can cause shoulder pain for some. Understanding the shoulder anatomy and sleeping posture, performing shoulder stretches, and seeking physical therapy can all help alleviate pain and discomfort. If you’re experiencing shoulder pain from side sleeping, try these tips and consider seeking physical therapy services in Winter Park from B Physical Therapy. We hope this blog post has been informative and helpful for managing shoulder pain.

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