3 Simple Steps To Stop Shoulder Pain From Disrupting Your Sleep - Perseverance Movement Specialists & Pilates
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3 Simple Steps To Stop Shoulder Pain From Disrupting Your Sleep

I absolutely LOVE shoulders, namely HELPING people that are struggling with shoulder pain or limitations.

Shoulders are super complicated, and the pain people experience with shoulder issues can be absolutely debilitating and frustrating. Unfortunately, shoulder pain will often go hand in hand with neck pain, TMJ(jaw) issues, upper back pain, numbness or radiating pain into the arms. Not to mention the loss of sleep or restless nights of tossing and turning, which is probably the most common frustration people will report with shoulder pain. a like I say about shoulders it is more a matter of WHEN you will have shoulder problems and not IF if you will in your lifetime. 

So I wanted to share with you some tips and strategies to help you sleep better even if you are struggling with shoulder pain right now. If anything I want you to take shoulder pain seriously, know that it can be fixed and you don’t have to just rely on pills, injections or surgery. So, please don’t ignore your shoulder situation and put these strategies to use. Here is what we’ll cover:

The 3 Things You Need To Do If You Are Experiencing Shoulder Pain & Are Loosing Sleep Over It

  1. Find & Fix The Root Cause Of Your Shoulder Situation
  2. Release, Restore & Ready Your Shoulders and Body For Bed
  3. Get The Right Sleep Set up For Your Shoulders

But first, let’s talk about….

Why Shoulder Pain Is So Common and What You Can Do Fix It

We ask a lot of our shoulders, and most people have developed poor posture, poor habits and are not as strong, flexible and don’t move using the correct muscles or methods. Our current culture that is growing increasingly dependent(or addicted) to device usage really puts our bodies in unnatural and harmful positions and begins to instill bad body habits into over daily life and being.

By design we have a lot of BIG powerful muscle that round us forward but we have a very few, much smaller muscles that stabilize the shoulder and are responsible to keep us upright and balance the tendency to round forward. And to layer insult to injury when exercising most people tend to focus more on the front side and less on the stabilizing core muscles of shoulder and upper back, so it can feed even more into imbalances and weaknesses of the shoulder. The consequence of these imbalances, weak links, poor patterns and postures is that the shoulder joint, muscles and tendons become inflamed, impinged, arthritic, unstable and eventual lead to serious shoulder injuries like rotator cuff tears or dislocations and then require surgical intervention. 


Here’s how to prevent having to go down that route and get back to living an active life you deserve…

  1. Find & Fix The Root Cause Of Your Shoulder Situation

Every person is unique, with very different “body stories”, goals and limitations. so the best thing to do is to help them as an individual and after listening, watching and assessing their movement is to develop a plan and program that will get to the core problems creating the shoulder issues. Working with a Movement Specialist that can help assess what is causing your shoulder situation and then developing the right plan and program to do at the right time is critical. Even if you think it’s just a “little soreness” , “clicking” or “popping” it may be the sign of the start of a serious problem. Taking action and getting the right help and doing the right program at the right time is often the difference between being able to sleep on your sides, thrown a ball, reach overhead with pain again or being stuck in a sling for three months and rehabing for the next 2 years…. If you want to to start by just talking with one of our Specialists and put your mind to ease and really know what’s going on you can inquire about one of our Free consultations.

2. Release, Restore & Ready Your Shoulders and Body For Bed

Just think of ALL we put our bodies through in a day, that includes the mental and emotional challenges too- which by the way are without a doubt interconnected. This couldn’t be any truer when it comes to shoulder issues, due to how interconnected the shoulder and neck muscle, joints and mechanics interplay and depend on each other. Any weakness of the shoulder, limited range of motion, especially with overhead movements will cause the neck muscles to compensate and try to pick up the slack. 

And where do we carry our stress, anxiety and worries…our neck and shoulders. You can feel and see it, your shoulders start to elevate up to your ears, they round forward and become tense and rigid.

Carrying the stress, tension, stiffness and bad posture from the day into to bed without trying to “undo” the daily physically assaults is definitely one way to have a restless night, loose sleep and wake up even stiffer and tighter the next morning. Not to mention most people wind down their day, watching TV, in bed reading, on their tablets, phones or laptops….in really bad positions. So, taking the time to to release and restore your body and avoid being in these prolong periods of bad posture right before bed is best.

Pain and injury are a result of the presence of a problem that persists without being corrected. It is that simple. The reality of cause, effect and consequence apply.

This is why it is important to face and fix the problems that exist and to try to restore your body everyday so that you don’t carry aches, pains and emotional baggage into the next. 

Everyone is unique and each day brings a new set of challenges. I hope that these suggestions will help you better understand your body, needs and what you can do to sleep better. 

Things like how much you commute, your desk set up, if you have a physical labor intensive job, the repetitive patterns and positions we put our body in, the exercise routine we love or miss, all factor in to how we feel and move at the end of day and crawl into bed at night. 

Having the right routine that incorporates; focused strengthening/stabilizing, stretching and self massage is the key to undo or prevent mounting tightness, stiffness and weakness from keeping you up at night or causing injury. 

Especially with shoulders, taking the time to release the tight muscles of your neck, lid upper back, shoulders, stretching them and then stabilizing them is key!

Another helpful way our clients love to wind down and release the tension of the day is with our pain relief lotions to help decrease muscle soreness, aches, stiffness and inflammation. Additional, the unique bled of essential oils can help to decrease anxiety and calm the body and mind. Learn more about our pain relief products here. Your shoulders and neck will thank you for it 🙂

Take time to breathe, mediate and let go. So often we are moving so fast we never take stock of how we are doing, take a breath and let go of what we can’t control, change and need to forgive(ourselves included).

Try our VIRTUAL Release and Restore Class, it is a great way improve your mobility, open up your shoulders, free your body from stress and tension and calm your body and mind. This is our most popular class for the very reason so many body’s and shoulder’s crave this release, and they sleep like babies after 😉


3. Get The Right Sleep Set up For Your Shoulders

One of the tools that is pretty critical to address when helping people with shoulder problems is fixing their sleep position and set up.

Best Sleeping Practices and Positions When You Have Shoulder Pain:

This tip typically gets the QUICKEST results for some immediate relief. Just think, we spend anywhere from 6-8 hours in bed every night. We spend over one-third of our life sleeping so it is essential to be in the most optimal position to get the full-night, restful and pain-free sleep you want. It’s important to keep your head, neck, shoulder, spine and pelvis aligned to decrease stress and pain throughout the entire body. 


BACK SLEEPER: For individuals that sleep on their back I advise using two pillows. Try a small pillow or towel under the arch of your low back and another under your ankles. Make sure that the pillow under your neck keeps your head in a neutral position and doesn’t cause your head and chin to tilt upward or downward extremely.  For most people that struggle with shoulder pain their shoulder tend to really round forward, just because you lie on your back doesn’t mean your body changes. So, what happens is that their shoulders get pushed forward even more when they are on their backs, it would be the same pressure on your shoulders as of someone applied direct pressure on the front of the shoulder for the whole 6-8 hours you slept! Not good! Simply by placing a pillow under the upper portion of your arms can bring your arms and shoulders into a more neutral position and keep the tipping forward of the shoulders to a minimum(watch the video so you can see the set up). This will provide the support and alignment your head, neck, shoulders, spine, hips and pelvis need while sleeping, so you can wake up less stiff, ache and have more energy. No more getting out of bed like your decades older!


SIDE SLEEPER: Side sleeping with shoulder pain is probably the biggest complaint. When you have shoulder pain, you want to AVOID the prolonged direct pressure on the shoulders. It is seriously the combination of all worst things a cranky and irritated shoulder can tolerate. But, so many people can only actually get to sleep on their sides. Well, there are was to come into a modified sleeping position. It requires some addition pillows to support you behind your back and additional one to wrap your top arm around, this helps to keep your shoulder from falling forward- which is a big no-no.  Additionally, putting a pillow between your legs improves the positioning of your hips as well as your lower back(remember everything in the body is connected). The key is to make certain the pillow is vertical not horizontal. (Check out the video below as I demonstrate this for you).

STOMACH SLEEPERS: AVOID!!!! This position will wreak havoc on your neck, shoulders, spine, hips and pelvis. It puts all of the joints in the worst position. Even if this position doesn’t hurt now, you are setting yourself up for spine and hip deterioration in the future. There are a few things to do to salvage this position, but try to wean yourself off form stomach sleeping ASAP!!! It requires additional pillow support to put you is a half side-lying position. 

BEAR IN MIND that as you try to train yourself away from this position try placing a pillow under your pelvis and ankles. This is NOT ideal but it can take a little pressure off your neck, shoulders, spine, hips and pelvis.


Watch This Video To Help Your Practice a Better Sleep Position for Your Shoulders


What To Look For In a Pillow and Mattress When You Have Shoulder Issues

Often times people are using TOO MANY or TOO BIG of a pillow, or their mattress is forcing their spine into a position that puts a lot of stress on the shoulder.

This is why it is so important to get a custom fit pillow that doesn’t put your head forward or tilt it back whether you are on your back or side. when the head and neck are not supported it will round and pull the shoulders forward, leaving them unsupported, causing increased compression, inflammation and pain.

This can also cause the sensation of numbness and tingling in the hands, pain in the upper back, headaches, jaw pain and breathing difficulty 

CHECK YOUR MATTRESS: You spend a third of your life in your bed. Using an old mattress can put a lot of stress on your spine. Without knowing more about you, it’s hard to recommend a specific mattress. However, if your mattress is older than 5 years, it’s time to make a change.

TIP: Invest in a mattress that is comfortable for your spine. Change your mattress out every 5-10 years. Check out these options for mattress toppers our clients just love.

Does This Sound Like Your Struggle or Frustration?


Ready To Do Something About It?


Want to finally get the answers, help and support you need to be able to fix your shoulder issues and sleep better, and on your sides :)?

Want a natural solution to solving your shoulder problem without having to be constantly reaching for the painkillers that are bad for you stomach or getting costly injections that actually further degrade the tissues and cartilage of your shoulder and never really FIX anything?

You can take a simple first step to stopping the sleepless nights, frustration and agony of shoulder pain by…

Let us know if you want to start with FREE consultation with one of our specialist either in-person at our office or VIRTUALLY online.


I hope that some of these tips were helpful and you feel empowered to get some help so you can start sleeping better tonight.

Yvonne Castillo

Yvonne Castillo

Dr. Yvonne Castillo is one of Santa Barbara’s leading Movement Specialists who helps active adults become more active, fit, active and independent so they live the life they love without fear, limitation and having to depend on painkillers or procedures. ​ Every day people consult Yvonne looking for the guidance to get them back to their active lifestyles faster and permanently. She helps them understand and address their current performance limitations, individual risk factors and weak links, prevent injury, avoid loss of mobility, flexibility, strength, stability and balance, avoid surgery and protect against falls, slow decline of their independence or the steady increase in aches, pains, stiffness, loss of energy or confidence in their ability to be active like they truly desire to be.​

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