Advice on How to Sleep with Shoulder Tendonitis

08 October, 2020
Sleeping with shoulder tendinitis can be quite uncomfortable. That's why it's important to know what position to adopt and how to reduce the pain. In this article, we're going to share some recommendations with you.

Trying to get to sleep when you have shoulder tendonitis can be very uncomfortable. This condition comes with pain, inflammation, and a feeling of weakness that reduces one’s ability to carry out everyday tasks. Right when you go to bed, the symptoms tend to increase and can interrupt your rest.

What can you do about it? How can you prevent the discomfort from affecting the quality of sleep?

There are some simple measures that you can implement to mitigate this condition. In the following article, we’ll take a brief look at its causes, and then discover how to relieve the symptoms to help you get a good night’s sleep.

What is shoulder tendonitis? What are its causes?

Shoulder tendonitis is the inflammation of the tendons in the shoulder. It’s often caused by repetitive movements or overexertion of shoulder muscles. It’s frequent in people who practice sports such as tennis, baseball, and swimming, among others.

On the other hand, it can also affect people who have jobs that involve putting excessive pressure on this joint, as is the case of carpenters or painters. Overall, there are two types of shoulder tendinitis:

  1. In the rotator cuff, which encompasses the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, minor round, and subscapular muscles
  2. In the brachial biceps

Its main symptom is a sensation of pain that increases with the movement of the upper limb or the palpation of the joint. There’s also a weakening of the arm, difficulty in lifting objects, and discomfort at night.

A tennis player with tendinitis.
Tennis and other sports are prone to develop this tendonitis, because of the type of movements that are made.

Take a look at this article: Goose leg tendinitis: Symptoms and Treatment

How can you get a good sleep if you have shoulder tendonitis?

To prevent sleeping problems caused by shoulder tendinitis, you’ll need to consult a doctor. While there are general tips to help provide a sense of relief, your doctor will need to determine the severity of the injury and whether you’ll need medication.

Often, they’ll suggest taking over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. However, at the same time, we recommend that you also work with a physiotherapist to carry out exercises and therapy to improve muscle strength in this area.

If this isn’t enough to control symptoms and pain, then a corticosteroid injection or even surgery may be necessary. In any case, while the injury is getting better, you can apply these specific for bedtime tips. Keep them in mind!

Apply ice before bedtime

Before going to bed, you should apply an ice pack or cold compress to the shoulder affected by tendonitis. As Edward R. Laskowski, MD, explains in a Mayo Clinic publication, cold relieves pain and causes blood vessels to constrict. This way, inflammation is reduced.

Cold therapy should last 15 to 20 minutes. It’s essential to wrap the ice in a bag or towel, as a direct application can harm the skin.

Find an alternative sleeping position

Sleeping posture has a big part to play in how quickly your shoulder tendonitis will improve. However, there’s no standard sleep posture that will help improve the condition. Because of this, we recommend that you try several different positions and choose the most comfortable one.

  • Reclining position. There are several options for sleeping in a reclining position. First of all, several pillows can be placed behind the back when lying in bed. You can also use a comfortable reclining chair or an adjustable bed. For added comfort, the pillow can be placed under the injured arm.
  • Face up. Lying on your back with your injured arm on a pillow is another option. This support decreases the pressure on the shoulder, thus relieving the pain.
  • On the uninjured side. Another position that will help you rest well is to lie on the unaffected side. In other words, if the left shoulder is the injured one, you can sleep on the right side. However, this is somewhat difficult for people who are unable to sleep in the same position all night.
A man with insomnia.
Sleep hygiene and bedding positions are elements to consider to alleviate shoulder tendonitis pain.

Practice good sleep habits

To help the recovery process in cases of shoulder tendinitis, sleep is vitally important. Poor sleep quality increases stress and makes rehabilitation difficult. Therefore, in addition to putting the above advice into practice, you’ll need to apply other healthy sleep habits too. In particular, we recommend the following:

  • Maintain regular schedules. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  • Avoid the use of mobile devices, computers, and television before going to sleep.
  • Limit the consumption of stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, especially after 4 pm.
  • Eat a healthy dinner at least 2 hours before going to bed.

Read also: 5 Exercises That are Recommended for Preventing Tendinitis

Can’t sleep well because of shoulder tendonitis?

Not only are the symptoms of shoulder tendinitis disabling throughout the day, but they can also reduce our sleep quality. That’s why it’s a good idea to put these recommendations into practice. If the pain still doesn’t improve, then it’s best to see a doctor.

As we’ve mentioned, in some cases the injury requires a pharmacological or surgical approach. So, if the symptoms are severe and don’t improve with self-care measures, then you’ll need to seek timely and professional attention.

  • InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Shoulder pain: Overview. 2020 Feb 13. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554693/
  • Varacallo M, El Bitar Y, Mair SD. Rotator Cuff Tendonitis. [Updated 2020 Jun 30]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532270/
  • Tapscott DC, Varacallo M. Supraspinatus Tendonitis. [Updated 2020 Jun 26]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551702/
  • Spargoli G. TREATMENT OF ROTATOR CUFF TENDINOPATHY AS A CONTRACTILE DYSFUNCTION. A CLINICAL COMMENTARY. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2019;14(1):148-158.
  • Laskowski, E.R. (Sept. 07, 2017). Tendinitis pain: Should I apply ice or heat?. Mayo Clinic. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tendinitis/expert-answers/tendinitis/faq-20057872#:~:text=Ice%20numbs%20pain%20and%20causes,ice%20pack%20and%20your%20skin.v
  • Holdaway LA, Hegmann KT, Thiese MS, Kapellusch J. Is sleep position associated with glenohumeral shoulder pain and rotator cuff tendinopathy: a cross-sectional study. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2018;19(1):408. Published 2018 Nov 23. doi:10.1186/s12891-018-2319-9
  • Finan PH, Goodin BR, Smith MT. The association of sleep and pain: an update and a path forward. J Pain. 2013;14(12):1539-1552. doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2013.08.007