Sleeping With Rotator Cuff Pain

It’s common to have trouble sleeping if you’ve got a rotator cuff injury. Fortunately, there are several tips to help you catch some z’s.

Rotator cuff injuries are typically the result of trauma, tissue degeneration, and/or shoulder impingement.
How Do Rotator Cuff Injuries Occur?

Before bedtime

There are a few things you can do before going to bed that may help you sleep.

  • Ice your injured shoulder for 15 to 20 minutes. This can help reduce pain and inflammation. Remember to wrap your ice pack in a towel to prevent ice burn.
  • Take pain medication. Try to ease your pain by taking pain medication prescribed by your doctor or an anti-inflammatory, non-steroidal medication like ibuprofen.

See Rotator Cuff Injuries: Initial Treatment

Try taking your mind off your pain by reading for 20 minutes or so. In fact, you can read a book and ice your shoulder at the same time. Reading is also a good way to relax and get tired.


Alternative sleeping positions

People with rotator cuff injuries typically find that they need to adjust their sleeping position for a restful night’s sleep. If you’ve had rotator cuff surgery, some experts say it takes about 6 weeks after surgery until you can sleep comfortably in a horizontal position.

See Rotator Cuff Surgery Recovery

Give these positions a try:

  • Sit in a reclined position. You may find sleeping in a reclined position more comfortable than lying flat on your back. There are a few ways to do this:
    • You can make your own reclined position with the help of several pillows behind your back, while lying in bed or on your couch.
    • You can sit in a comfortable, reclining chair with armrests, like a La-Z-Boy.
    • You can use an adjustable bed, if you have one, to control the angle of your mattress.
    You may want to place a pillow under your injured arm for additional comfort and support.
  • Lie flat on your back with your injured arm propped up with a pillow. Using a pillow may help reduce stress and pressure on your injured side.
  • Lie on your uninjured side. If your right shoulder is injured, sleep on your left side.

See The P.R.I.C.E. Protocol Principles

There’s no standard approach when it comes to sleeping comfortably with a rotator cuff injury. Experiment and see what works best for you.

Learn more:

Rotator Cuff Injuries: Symptoms

Rotator Cuff Injuries: Diagnosis