Sleeping With Arms Above Head Shoulder Pain
Shoulder pain is one of the most common types of low back pain in people over age 50. The main cause of this type of pain is muscle imbalance between the muscles on either side of your neck (the trapezius) and those that surround it (called the deltoids). When there is an unbalanced amount of pressure being placed on the painful area compared to its opposite side, you have what’s called “malalignment,” which causes inflammation and irritation within the joint space. In addition to muscle imbalances, other factors such as posture, body weight distribution and trauma can also affect a person’s risk of developing shoulder pain.
In general, when we sleep, our bodies are less active than they are during the day, which allows us to relax more easily. But because of the way we typically fall asleep — with our arms above our heads — sleeping positions put additional stress on our shoulders. This has been shown to contribute to shoulder problems like impingement syndrome, where cartilage wears down in the socket of the glenohumeral joint (the ball and socket found at each end of the humerus bone), causing friction and swelling [sources: MayoClinic, WebMD].
To better understand how sleeping positions affect shoulder health, keep reading.
Sleep Positions and Posture
The first step toward relieving shoulder pain while sleeping is making sure you’re using a comfortable bed. If you lie in the same position every night, make sure your sheets and blankets conform to your body shape so they don’t irritate or rub against sensitive parts of your skin. You should also avoid sleeping with pillows or cushions under your head or torso, since this can increase pressure on your spine and lower back. And while it might seem counterintuitive, try lying on your side instead of your stomach. Lying flat on your back increases the distance between the upper portion of your spinal column and your pelvis, which puts more strain on your vertebrae.
Another thing to consider is whether your mattress is too soft or firm. A firm mattress provides support around the entire perimeter of your body, whereas a softer one doesn’t. For example, if you sleep on your side, the natural curve of your hip will be flattened out. Soft mattresses allow the hips to sink deeper into the mattress, potentially placing excess stress on the joints in the front of your thighs. On the other hand, hard mattresses give a stiff base for your knees and feet, but they aren’t flexible enough to accommodate your hips’ need to roll onto your sides. Instead, they push your legs downward, which can lead to knee pain. Also, avoid beds that feature raised edges along all four corners; this design encourages poor posture, which can aggravate back pain.
If you suffer from chronic shoulder pain, especially after lifting weights or engaging in strenuous activities, you may benefit from seeing a physical therapist who specializes in treating postural issues. He or she can show you exercises designed to strengthen the muscles surrounding your shoulder joints. These exercises will improve your ability to maintain proper alignment and thus prevent injury.
Once you’ve made sure your bed is supportive and your mattress isn’t too soft, you’ll want to choose the best pillow for your sleeping style. Some experts recommend foam pillows because they provide adequate support without feeling overly rigid or heavy. Others advocate feather down pillows because they offer excellent comfort while keeping air circulation intact. Still others feel that memory foam pillows perform well in both aspects. In any case, if you experience sleeplessness due to discomfort caused by a pillow, try rotating it periodically throughout the night.
Now that you know how sleeping positions affect shoulder health, read on to find out why you shouldn’t ignore sleeping pain.
People who spend long periods working on computers or playing video games tend to develop bad habits involving their necks, backs and shoulders. One habit that leads to fatigue is having your computer monitor set at eye level. Although it might look convenient, doing so encourages an unnatural look at your screen, which can result in headaches and eyestrain. To alleviate some of these symptoms, many users invest in adjustable chairs that raise or lower themselves according to the height of their monitors.
You probably already know that getting up in the morning is often easier said than done. It takes energy to move yourself from your bed, get dressed and take care of daily chores. As a result, many people simply stay in bed until midmorning or beyond. While this strategy can help you save time, it can negatively impact your overall health. Not only does it discourage exercise, but it can also deprive you of the restorative effects of quality sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, about half of Americans suffer from insomnia.
Chronic lack of sleep makes it difficult to concentrate, prevents you from remembering things as clearly as usual and interferes with your mood. It can even trigger anxiety attacks. Fortunately, there are several ways to treat sleeping disorders effectively. First, you can use relaxation techniques to calm yourself before going to bed. Second, you can try changing your bedroom environment to encourage a calmer state of mind. Third, you can experiment with different sleeping styles to determine what works best for your needs. Finally, consult a physician if you haven’t had success with self-treatment.
Regardless of the treatment you pursue, always remember that the key to preventing sleeping shoulder pain lies in good posture. Take the following steps to ensure your shoulders remain healthy while you sleep:
Relax: Before turning in, focus on relaxing your shoulders through deep breathing, stretching and massaging them gently with your fingers. Avoid alcohol consumption, smoking and caffeine intake just before bedtime.
Support: To keep your spine properly aligned, place a small pillow between your back and the bed. You can also wear a loose, cotton shirt or T-shirt to minimize contact between your bare chest and the sheet.
Avoid tight clothing: Wear loose and breathable clothes to promote airflow. Don’t tuck the covers too tightly around your waist, or else you’ll force your shoulder blades forward.
Stretching: Try to stretch your arms and hands before bed. Hold your elbows straight and lift your shoulders upward, then slowly bring them backward and downward. Repeat this movement three times. Next, turn your palms inward and pull your shoulders together, then release. Repeat 10 times. Now bend your elbows and reach behind you, pulling your shoulders closer together. Release and repeat 10 times.
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Although it may sound strange, sleeping on your back can actually worsen your posture. Sleeping on your stomach, however, promotes better alignment of your spinal column.
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