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Why Your Shoulders Hurt When You Wake Up and How to Prevent It

Tired of your shoulders aching first thing in the morning? Looking for some relief? Read through this article to learn why your shoulders hurt when you wake up and what to do about it!

There is nothing worse than starting your day off already in pain. Feeling the discomfort of stiff and sore shoulders can make getting out of bed a real struggle.

Plus, it often affects how you feel the rest of the day. Shoulder pain can make it hard to concentrate at work or get through your usual routine.

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to ease the discomfort and prevent shoulder pain from happening in the first place. Keep reading to learn more!

Why Your Shoulders Hurt When You Wake Up

The first step in preventing pain is understanding what causes it. When it comes to shoulder pain first thing in the morning, the main cause is poor positioning while you sleep.

Consistently sleeping in positions that cause pressure or strain on your shoulder throughout the night often leads to shoulder pain. The shoulder is a shallow and sensitive joint.

Sleeping in the wrong position night after night can shift your joint out of position, pinch a nerve, or cut off circulation. This leads to that achy, stiff feeling you experience first thing in the morning.

How to Prevent Shoulder Pain First Thing in the Morning

To prevent shoulder pain, you need to sleep in a way that keeps your shoulder in a neutral position. A neutral position for your shoulder means that your arm is in a natural position and the shoulder joint stays in good alignment.

You want your shoulder to be:

  • relaxed.
  • not raised toward the neck.
  • in line with your torso.
  • not stretched across your body.

Keeping your shoulder in a neutral position while you sleep allows for maximum blood flow and circulation. This will help your sore shoulder heal and recover much faster.

4 Sleeping Positions That Cause Shoulder Pain

Here are 4 positions that most often cause shoulder pain while sleeping. Plus, I'm sharing some adjustments you can make that will help take the strain off your shoulder and allow it to heal.

Sleeping on your sore shoulder

The first sleeping position you should avoid if your shoulder hurts first thing in the morning is sleeping on your side on your sore shoulder. Sleeping on the shoulder that already feels sore will only continue to aggravate it.

As you lie on your side at night, you are continuing to put pressure on the joint and muscles surrounding it. This will only make your pain worse and prolong the healing process.

How to fix it

The first step is to stop sleeping on the sore shoulder. If you can't sleep on your other side for some reason, you can try placing a pillow under your torso. This causes more of your weight to rest on the pillows holding up your head and torso instead of your shoulder.

You can also try rolling slightly towards your back when sleeping on your side. This also helps relieve the amount of pressure on your shoulder.

If you need, you can use some pillows behind your back to help prop you up.

Sleeping on the non-sore shoulder

A lot of people naturally switch the side they sleep on when they have shoulder pain. However, that often causes them to sleep in another position you want to avoid.

When people sleep on their non-sore side, they often do it in a way that continues to put strain and pressure on their sore shoulder. By stretching the arm of your sore shoulder across your body and possibly tucking it up under your pillow, you continue to put a strain on your shoulder throughout the night.

The weight of your arm stretching across your body takes your shoulder out of alignment and puts strain on the joint. This makes it difficult for your shoulder to rest and heal the way it needs to.

How to fix it

To help ease the strain on your shoulder from this position you can try 2 things:

  1. Try sleeping with your arm lying straight along your torso and hip.
  2. Prop up a couple of pillows in front of your chest and lay your arm across them.

Both positions will help keep your shoulder in a neutral position as you sleep which takes the strain off your sore shoulder.

Laying on your back with your arms overhead

The third position that causes shoulder pain in the morning is sleeping on your back with your arms overhead. This position also puts unnecessary strain on your shoulders throughout the night.

How to fix it

If you're most comfortable sleeping on your back, try lying with your arms down by your side with a pillow under each arm. This position helps keep your shoulders in that neutral position that allows for maximum circulation and blood flow.

This is important for helping your sore shoulder heal and recover.

Laying on your stomach with your arms overhead

The last position you want to avoid if you find yourself waking up with shoulder pain first thing in the morning is lying on your stomach with your arms overhead. Just like the previous positions, keeping your arms overhead all night adds unnecessary strain on your shoulders.

This position also often causes people to arch their back and put a lot of pressure on their spine. Not only will this aggravate your shoulder pain, but it can also lead to neck pain or headaches.

How to fix it

If at all possible try to sleep in one of the other positions that we've mentioned. Sleeping on your stomach is one of the worst positions for your body. Not just for your shoulders, but your spine and neck as well.

However, if you absolutely have to sleep on your stomach, be sure to keep your arms down by your sides to keep your shoulders in a more neutral position.


If you've been experiencing shoulder pain when you wake up in the morning, try some of these different sleeping positions to see if they help. Avoiding placing extra strain on your shoulders throughout the night can make a big difference in how you feel all day long.

If your shoulder pain is severe or persists, be sure to consult with a doctor or physical therapist to rule out any other potential causes of your pain.

If you give some of these sleeping positions a try, let us know how they worked in the comments below!

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