How do you sleep at night: on your back, stomach, side – or a combination of all three?
It’s important because your sleeping position could have a painful effect on your shoulder joint and muscles that, in turn, can prevent you from getting a good night’s rest and significantly affect your quality of life.
While sleeping on your back can lead to snoring and/or sleep apnea and sleeping on your stomach can put stress on your back and neck muscles, sleeping on your side may cause an issue with your rotator cuff – notably tendonitis. The constant pressure of your shoulder’s tendons against underlying bone from sleeping on one side can lead to bursitis or inflammation of the subacromial bursa, the small sac located on the tip of the rotator cuff tendons.
Symptoms of rotator cuff tendonitis include pain and stiffness in the front of your shoulder and side of your arm – which tends to get worse over time if untreated – as well as a clicking sound when you raise your arm, a loss of mobility and strength in the affected arm, and a pain that continually wakes you up at night.
Take the Sting Out of Your Sleep Position
The good news is that it’s relatively easy to prevent tendonitis from side-sleeping or to ease existing symptoms. In fact, it may be as simple as switching up your sleep position, such as alternating the side you sleep on throughout the night or sleeping on your back if you don’t need to worry about snoring or breathing problems.
Another solution is to prop up your pillow higher to reduce the pressure on your shoulder. Also, you should avoid sleeping sideways with your arm in an upward position, such as wrapping the pillow around your head and securing it in place with your arm. This places stress on the downward-facing shoulder and compresses the nerves that pass into your arm. Besides aggravating their shoulders, people who sleep this way often wake up with numbness in their arms and hands.
Pillows provide needed support in other ways, as well. A second pillow may ease shoulder, neck, and upper back pain by keeping your head from tilting too far back. Meanwhile, embracing a pillow against your chest while you sleep – almost as if you’re spooning it – provides support for your upper arm and prevents your shoulder from rolling forward.
If you are experiencing the chronic pain of rotator cuff tendonitis or other shoulder conditions, selecting a reputable surgeon is one of the best ways to find the relief you need to restore your mobility, lead an active lifestyle, and get a good night’s sleep. The staff at Greater Chesapeake Hand to Shoulder is highly skilled at performing shoulder diagnoses and surgeries – and they’ve helped patients with a wide range of orthopedic issues. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, call (410) 296-6232.