For appointments please call
02 9874 8410

Is Sleeping on My Side Causing My Shoulder Pain?


Is one or both of your shoulders feeling painful and reducing your functionality? There can be many causes for this and multiple elements that can make it worse. One such factor is the position in which you sleep. 

Our shoulders are put under a lot of strain each day, pulling, pushing, twisting, lifting, and weight bearing. You might think that sleep can only help issues these actions may create by resting the area and promoting healing. However, sleep can sometimes have the opposite effect! Even if your shoulder is not hurting when you go to bed, you may find you are aching or in pain when you rise from sleep, and this may be due to sleeping on your side. 

Our physiotherapists can help to improve pain associated with the shoulders. Knowing solutions that can assist in avoiding or improving pain in the shoulder region when it comes to sleep can work positively alongside physio techniques.


Why Does My Sleeping Position Impact Shoulder Pain? 

Just like the posture you maintain when you are moving and sitting during the day, the way you sleep can impact many areas of your body. Sleeping can involve positions that twist, cramp, and bend your upper body and laying on your side can cause weight to increase on your shoulder joint. The effects can be compounded as this position can squeeze your arm between your torso and neck and compress your blood vessels, soft tissues, and joints. 

While we are asleep, we do not have the same control over our muscles or information related to pain that we do when awake, and so damage can be occurring or being worsened and we don’t always respond sufficiently. When you consider the amount of time we sleep each night, it’s a long time to be putting this type of pressure and stress on the area.


Issues That Can Be Caused By Sleeping On Your Side  

There are several issues that can result from or be aggravated by sleeping on your side. Some of these include the following: 


Rotator Cuff Injuries 

The soft tissues and bones within the part of the shoulder called the rotator cuff can become compressed and friction may result when you sleep on your side. This impingement can result in issues such as inflamed or torn tendons, which can cause pain at the top or outer part of your shoulder, weakness, and difficulty carrying out movements such as reaching above your head.



A bursa is a sac that is filled with fluid and is found in joints to cushion the bones and soft tissues. When your shoulder is pressed between your bed and torso, these sacs can become inflamed, which can result in pain, tenderness, swelling, redness, and reduced mobility.



If you regularly sleep on your side for prolonged periods of time, the cartilage within your shoulder may deteriorate, which can lead to the bones rubbing against each other. This can result in pain, particularly when moving your shoulder, stiffness, and popping, grinding or clicking sounds.


Frozen Shoulder 

The connective tissue in your shoulder joint can thicken when the area is regularly in one position for an increased length of time. This can impair your shoulder movement due to pain and reduced range of motion. 


Ways To Reduce Shoulder Pain Caused By Sleeping On Your side 

Our experienced physiotherapists frequently see issues that are a result of sleeping in certain positions or are exasperated during sleep. We can help to improve your mobility and reduce your pain with a variety of methods. These may include: 

  • Prescribing exercises that can help to mobilise and stretch your shoulders before and after sleep, improve blood flow, increase muscle strength, promote sleep, and maintain overall health and wellness.
  • Manual therapy and massage.
  • Ultrasound therapy.
  • Providing guidance regarding adaptations to movements that may increase the strain on your painful shoulder.
  • Advice regarding your bed set up. For example, positioning pillows to prevent you rolling onto your painful shoulder or to promote sleeping on your back can be beneficial. Pillows such as cervical pillows can provide support and relieve pressure and tension.

Other methods that may help include temporary use of pain relief medications, rest, cold or heat therapy, and corticosteroid injections provided by a doctor.


NDPE Could Help To Diagnose Your Shoulder Pain  

Sleeping on your side can cause or increase shoulder pain. This can be difficult to avoid because you may be unaware the problem is occurring until it’s too late. Taking steps to prevent or decrease the effects can be beneficial.  

Our physios are here to assist you by providing physical therapy and guidance to help identify the cause of your shoulder pain. Contact our friendly team to come in for an assessment and treatment. 





new patient
special offer
New patient special offer Click Here
SRC Health Support Recovery Comfort
AOK Health Pty Ltd Australian Physiotherapy Association Corporate Work Health Australia The Orthotic Group Vasyli Medical

Northern Districts Physiotherapy

Northern Districts Physiotherapy & Sports Clinic was established in 1995 and consists of an energetic team of highly qualified and experienced professionals who take the time to understand ...


Business Hours

We are now open Saturday’s….
Monday to Friday: 7am to 7pm
Saturday: 7am to 12noon

Contact Us

95 Ryedale Road
West Ryde NSW 2114

Ph 02 9874 8410
Fax 02 9874 6192

Facebook NDPE Google