Get a Free Consultation – and free yourself from frozen shoulder!

How to Sleep with a Frozen Shoulder

Anyone that has experienced frozen shoulder knows that it can be a very painful condition.

Not only will it limit your range of motion and make it difficult to do simple things like brush your teeth, wash your hair, or get dressed, it also affects your sleep. Losing sleep due to a persistent pain in your upper arm or shoulder is one of the worst things that can happen to a person, because a lack of sleep affects so many other parts of your life. Find out how to get rid of these issues with frozen shoulder treatment.

The Necessity of a Good Night's Rest

Without enough uninterrupted sleep, people become angry, irritated, and short-tempered.

This can affect relationships at home or at work. At home, this could lead to unnecessary conflict, and at work, a lack of sleep can lead people to become more distracted, less focused, and less effective in their jobs. Worst of all, not being able to sleep hurts your body’s ability to heal itself over time.

If you are constantly in agony, whether because of a sore shoulder capsule, rotator cuff injury, frozen shoulder, or issues related to nerve pain, the result is the same: your life is less enjoyable. This is why learning how to get a good night’s rest is so essential while you undergo the physical therapy necessary to heal yourself.

Having effective frozen shoulder sleep positions becomes more important the longer the frozen shoulder condition persists. As patients tell us, during the day it is sometimes easy to get busy and forget about the pain, focusing on work or other necessary activities. But the pain is worse at night.

Man sleeping in bed on pillow
Asian women with frozen shoulder pain

Why Does Frozen Shoulder Hurt More at Night?

The pain a frozen shoulder-sufferer experiences at night has to do issues related to blood flow.

At night, the body naturally slows down blood flow, as well as other functions like kidney filtration. Because blood moves through the body more slowly and water is not filtered as quickly by the kidneys, it leads to a generalized retention of water. This water retention results in increased internal pressure within the body.

All inflammatory conditions–not just frozen shoulder – are worsened overnight due to these natural processes. This means there is even more painful inflammation in the already highly pressurized shoulder joint., which leads to a significant increase in pain. 

If someone with frozen should is not able to visit one of Dr. Allan Oolo-Austin’s many World Frozen Shoulder Clinics located in offices around the world to get the problem dealt with right away, they will still need to sleep comfortably.

So what’s a frozen shoulder sufferer to do to get some decent sleep? They adapt and find frozen shoulder sleep positions that work for them.

Why is Frozen Shoulder So Painful?

Although we describe the various symptoms, causes and treatments related to frozen shoulder in greater detail here, the affliction boils down to a few central elements that are relatively easy to understand.

The condition, known as adhesive capsulitis, is characterized by a painful restriction of motion in the shoulder joint that gets worse over time. The connective tissue inside the shoulder capsule ends up contracting and forming scar tissue that ultimately prevents the free movement of the shoulder bone in its socket.

While there are a number of factors that can lead to this condition, the point is that the severe, painful sensations in the shoulder joint leads to a loss of range of motion that, along with swelling and stiffness, prevents sufferers from being able to sleep. Without help, this affliction can last for years.

Sleeping position icon

The Best Frozen Shoulder Sleep Positions

There are various ways to cope and try to get quality sleep when one has frozen shoulder or sore shoulder pain. However, most health practitioners will recommend that you avoid sleeping on your stomach if at all possible, as this position pulls your shoulders into an unstable position that could do further damage over time.

Instead, try one or more of the following variations to determine what position works best for you.

Lie on the Unaffected Side

This one may seem obvious at first, but even so, quite often the best way to avoid excruciating shoulder pain is to lie on the unaffected side, cuddling into a cushion or pillow.

This technique, however, is easier said than done, as most people cannot control their movements while asleep, and will often roll over accidentally, waking themselves up with a painful jolt.

Sleep on Your Back Variation #1

For those who can sleep on their backs throughout the night, this position is advantageous. Having your arms extended straight down at your sides can help, as it  puts the least amount of pressure on the joints and muscles of the shoulder, as well as the neck, arms and shoulder.

This provides an ideal spine alignment, allowing the body to relax, release any built-up strain and tension, and heal itself while you sleep

Sleep on Your Back Variation #2

This position is similar to the one above, but instead of having your arms extended down your sides, they should be placed under the head, or stretched above the head. However, this is a very unusual position, and sleeping like that throughout the night will not be possible for everyone.

Just like in the example above, this position is advantageous because it releases pressure on the muscles, fibers and tendons in the affected area. Placing a pillow under the knees can help this position remain more comfortable for longer periods, but it is important to try to keep the head pointed at the ceiling, as turning on one side or the other can stretch the neck in ways that only add to the problem over the long term.

Use Pillows For Support and Vary Your Position

Whether you are sleeping on your side or your back, having extra pillows can be very helpful to eliminate the shoulder pain associated with frozen shoulder.

For example, if you’re on your back with your arms extended down your sides, one option is to place a pillow on either side to support your elbows, which in turn support the shoulders and reduce any pressure, strain or tension. Placing the pillow like this will have the added benefit of making it harder for you to accidentally roll over during your sleep.

If you’re sleeping on your side, sometimes tucking a pillow under your arm is also a good way to relieve pressure, supporting the frozen shoulder and keeping it from moving during the night.

Using a body pillow is also recommended, as the material will also provide helpful support for the injured shoulder, relieving pressure various bones and tissues in the affected shoulder capsule., and can be tucked between the knees for additional support.

Another recommendation is to find yourself a great head pillow with plenty of support for the neck. By keeping your head and neck in line with your spine, you can reduce tension on the neck and affected shoulder.

The point is, it is ideal to switch it up and find the variation that works best for your body. Everyone is different, has different mattress firmness, pillows of different thickness, etc. Trying a variety of sleeping positions has the added benefit of avoiding the compression or cramping that occurs in some areas of the body when sleeping the same way over and over

Women using frozen shoulder sleeping position properly
Women using sleeping pills to help remedy frozen shoulder

What Else Can I Do to Improve Sleep Quality?

Some patients have reported that applying heat to the shoulder just before bed can help you drift off more easily, and even induce a deeper sleep. In other cases, a better night’s sleep can be achieved by resting the shoulder throughout the day, helping to reduce inflammation.

Taking over-the-counter pain medication and anti-inflammatories can also be of use (ibuprofen acetaminophen), helping you to sleep more deeply through the night. Others recommend some light stretching before bed to relax tight muscles. Staying active during the day is also important, because regular exercise helps promote blood flow and circulation, which can buttress the healing process.

Ultimately, it is an individual decision as to whatever method (or combination of methods) works best for you. The thing to avoid is rolling over onto the frozen shoulder in the middle of the night by accident and waking up in extreme pain.

Avoid Frozen Shoulder Entirely

Ultimately, all the tips listed above will help you sleep between your diagnosis and your treatment. But there is no need to deal with this problem for longer than you have to. Several weeks of pain and suffering and lack of sleep is more than enough!

In fact, in the case of Byron Elton, a client out of Santa Barbara California, he found that after six months of sleepless nights, he had enough. His frozen shoulder nerve pain was so bad that he eventually took a leap of faith and flew to our Toronto clinic for the MCD Procedure. It was one of the best decisions he ever made.

After just one meeting, he had the best sleep he had had in the previous six month, and described the speed and efficacy of the MCD Procedure as “life changing.”

He continued: “It was really top-notch and first-class. And Dr. Austin was amazing. His staff was amazing. I immediately regained the flexibility and range of motion that I had not had in six months…I’ve tried everything. This is the solution. It’s non-invasive, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Watch the video of his before and after below!