8 Sleep Tips for Easing Back, Neck and Shoulder Pain

  • peaceful-woman-sleeping-in-bed
    A Hard Night’s Sleep
    It seems unfair that a good night’s sleep, which would make you feel so much better, is so hard to attain when you’re suffering from back, neck or shoulder pain. If you’re willing to try a few new things, though, you might find some relief.
  • Woman Sleeping
    1. Use a different pillow.
    If you’re waking up with a sore, aching neck, consider blaming one of the most likely sources: your pillow. We often get attached to pillows, even if they literally become a pain in our necks. But you may actually be sleeping on a pillow that’s all wrong for your sleeping style and puts unnecessary strain on your neck. A thinner pillow is better for back sleepers, while stomach sleepers might want an even thinner pillow—or no pillow at all.  Side sleepers should opt for a thicker, firm pillow. If you’re using the wrong kind, time to test drive some new ones in a different style.
  • woman-stretching-in-bed
    2. Roll over.
    Okay, stomach sleepers: it’s time to reevaluate your dedication to your favorite sleeping position. We know, easier said than done. But your favorite position puts stress on your back. So if you’re already experiencing some back or neck pain, sleeping on your stomach is likely to exacerbate the problem.
  • rolled-up-towel-on-bed
    3. Put a towel under the small of your back.
    Back sleepers, consider this tip to help put your spine in a better alignment while you sleep and reduce back pain: roll up a towel and put it under the small of your back while you sleep. This will help maintain a more natural alignment of your spine.
  • woman-sleeping-with-pillow-between-knees
    4. Use an extra pillow between your knees or under your pelvis.
    If you’re a side sleeper, you’ll want to use a pillow that allows your head and neck to rest in a comfortable neutral position. But you might also find some relief by sleeping with another pillow in between your knees. The extra pillow helps keep your spine and hips in a better position, which may alleviate some back pain. And if you absolutely must sleep on your stomach, a very soft, thin pillow under your pelvis can help, too.
  • man-sleeping-on-side
    5. Sleep on a small pillow under your sore shoulder.
    Got shoulder pain? You have a couple of different options for positions that might be pain-free enough to allow you to slumber. Lie on your back, with a small pillow underneath your sore shoulder. Or sleep on the opposite side of the shoulder that’s sore or injured.
  • couple-testing-out-mattress
    6. Buy a medium-firm to firm mattress.
    A new mattress is admittedly a much bigger ticket item than a new pillow. But it can make a big impact.  Forego the temptation to plunge yourself into a deep, soft mattress. A medium-firm to firm mattress will be much kinder to your back. If your budget really can’t accommodate a new mattress right now, the National Sleep Foundation suggests putting a few wooden planks or pieces of plywood under the mattress for additional support.
  • Caucasian Young Woman Using Laptop in Home Bedroom, Copy Space'
    7. Work on your overall sleep hygiene.
    If you’ve changed your sleeping position and your pillow and made other appropriate changes, you might also find some benefit from examining your sleeping habits in general. Are you sleeping in a warm room? Are you drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages in the evening? Are you glued to your smartphone or laptop while you’re sitting in bed? If the answer is “yes” to these questions, you might be unintentionally sabotaging your ability to get a good night’s sleep.
  • Physical therapy
    8. See a physical therapist.
    If nothing is working to help you avoid experiencing neck pain, it’s time to call in the professionals. Consult your doctor, who may refer you to a physical therapist for some exercises to strengthen the muscles supporting your neck. Same goes for back and shoulder pain.
8 Sleep Tips for Easing Back, Neck and Shoulder Pain

About The Author

Jennifer Larson has more than 15 years of professional writing experience with a specialization in healthcare. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and memberships in the Association of Health Care Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Education Writers Association.
  1. How to Keep Sore Hips, Knees, Shoulders from Ruining Your Sleep. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2015/01/how-to-keep-sore-hips-knees-shoulders-from-ruining-your-sleep/
  2. How to Prevent Neck Plain While Sleeping. Sleep.org: National Sleep Foundation. https://sleep.org/articles/prevent-neck-pain-while-sleeping/
  3. Prevent Back Pain While You Sleep. Sleep.org: National Sleep Foundation. https://sleep.org/articles/prevent-back-pain-while-you-sleep/
  4. Sleeping Positions: Are you sleeping in the right position? Hennepin County Medical Center. http://www.hcmc.org/clinics/SleepCenter/SleepingPositions/index.htm?clinicDocName=HCMC_CLINICS_440&conditionDocName=
  5. What Pillow is Best For You. Sleep.org: National Sleep Foundation. https://sleep.org/articles/what-pillow-is-best-for-you/
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Nov 8
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.