How You Should Sleep to Relieve Neck or Shoulder Pain

Have you ever laid awake, tossing and turning, because of that annoying ache in your neck or shoulder? Why is it that you can be busy all day, but when you lay down to sleep, you start to feel more discomfort or pain? The reason for this is that your brain is busy handling a million other tasks during the day, not paying attention to the problem in your neck or shoulder.


When you rest in your bed, your mind becomes more aware of the body, fixating on any dull or throbbing pain. In addition, since you are now in a reclined position, the weight of gravity will pull differently on your neck or shoulder, causing strain. The goal is to support the body correctly so that you can have a restful night’s sleep.

Here are some tips for finding a comfortable way to sleep:

  • Use two pillows, with the top pillow staggered slightly back of the bottom pillow.
  • Try to lie on your side or back. Have the bottom pillow supporting your shoulders and the top pillow supporting your neck.
  • Hug a pillow, as this will put your top shoulder in an open position. Tuck the pillow up high under the arm.
  • Use a pillow between your legs when you are on your side, or behind your thighs if lying on your back. This helps take pressure off your whole spine.
  • Use gentle deep breathing when you first lie down, to calm your body down and improve the oxygen flow to your muscles, helping them relax.


Getting a good night’s sleep can help you improve your pain and set you up for a good day. When you sleep less than your body needs, it will actually lower your pain tolerance and make your neck or shoulder hurt more.


If your neck or shoulder pain lingers for more than 3 days, then you should see a physical therapist. Our experts evaluate your movement to discover the root cause of your problem and gently treat it with expert, hands on techniques. To learn more how we can help you live life pain free, call Advantage Osteopractic Physical Therapy today.

3 Ways to Beat Achy Shoulders

Do you find your shoulders aching at the end of the day or when having to lift your arms? Whether your pain is from an old injury or just from moving all day long, try these simple techniques to feel better and stronger.


Why Your Shoulders Hurt

Your shoulders are the most complicated joints in your body and one of the most easily injured. They have to move through an incredible 180 degrees of motion, while still maintaining stability and strength. Some of the most important muscles in the shoulder are actually the smallest.


The rotator cuff is a series of 4 muscles that form a cuff around the shoulder (glenohumeral) joint. Although they are small, they are vital to guiding how the shoulder joint moves. When these muscles are weak or injured, the head of the humerus bone can jam up into the socket of the shoulder blade, causing inflammation and pain.


Try these simple actions to improve the health of your shoulders and alleviate that nagging ache or sharp pain for good.


  • Keep your shoulders aligned by doing postural exercises – The number one reason for repetitive injury and pain in the shoulders is poor posture. With prolonged slouching, the shoulders protrude forward changing the mechanics of the way your shoulders move. This weakens your rotator cuff and shoulder blade (scapula) muscles. It predisposes you to injury.  
  • Strengthen your rotator cuff muscles – By keeping your rotator cuff muscles strong, you help guide your shoulder joints throughout the day, lessening the chance for injury and inflammation to occur. A simple exercise to perform is lying on your side with your top arm straight up towards the ceiling. Now slowly lower the arm down towards your hip, but not all the way, then back up to the ceiling. Repeat 10-15 times for 2 sets every other day. Stay within a pain free range of movement. Stop if you have any pain or talk to one of our therapists if you have any questions.
  • Improve your scapula stability – The scapula (shoulder blade) is a part of your whole shoulder complex. It has many different muscles attached to it, pulling at just the right time for proper shoulder movement. Every time you reach, pick up or pull, you use your scapula. Improve the stability of them by performing scapula exercises. A simple exercise is standing against a wall and gently trying to pinch your shoulder blades together, while keeping your arms relaxed. Perform 10-15 repetitions, holding the contraction for 5 seconds.


By working on these 3 simple actions, you can dramatically improve the performance and feel of your shoulders. You should also consider making an appointment with a physical therapist, to evaluate your shoulder mechanics and prevent injury. Our physical therapists are experts at analyzing the complex movements of your shoulders to determine the exact cause of your achy or sharp pain. If your shoulders feel weak, achy, painful, or if you had previous surgeries, give us a call today. We will definitely get your shoulders feeling limber, stronger and allow you to get back to doing life’s everyday activities pain free.

rotator cuff

Is Your Shoulder Pain Coming From the Rotator Cuff?

Have you ever felt a twinge in your shoulder when lifting something, or do you suffer from an aching shoulder at the end of the day? This could be a sign that your rotator cuff is weak and irritated. Various studies* show that 20% of people with shoulder pain after age 32 have a rotator cuff tear. This jumps up to 30% after age 40 and over 80% in people with shoulder pain after age 60.

The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles that surround the glenohumeral joint in the shoulder. Their primary job is to guide the direction of the shoulder joint while the big muscles of your trapezius, latissimus dorsi and pectoralis muscles do the heavy lifting.

What happens when the rotator cuff is weak?

Since your rotator cuff is designed to guide the shoulder joint, when certain rotator cuff muscles are weak or injured, poor alignment occurs. The result is a jamming effect of the ball end of the humerus into the socket of your shoulder blade. Over time this causes inflammation and weakness that increases with overhead motion. Your arm may feel weak with lifting overhead or painful after doing repetitive activities such as scrubbing, driving or working on a computer.

How does a rotator cuff tear happen?

There are various degrees of rotator cuff tears and many people have them without many symptoms. Rotator cuff tears are usually partial tears, but can become full tears with a fall onto the arm or with lifting a heavy object overhead. Small tears usually occur from poor posture of the shoulder joint or heavy lifting over a period of time. The small partial tearing is similar to the analogy of a rope fraying over time, until one day the rope snaps.

What can be done to help shoulder pain from a rotator cuff?

  • See a physical therapist first. We have specialized training on how to test for rotator cuff tears and address the root cause of the problem, alleviating pain and restoring function. MRI’s and other tests should be done only after an exam, or if your doctor determines a need for one.
  • Use ice to alleviate the swelling in the shoulder. Use an icepack for 10 minutes on your shoulder with a towel wrapped around it so it will not hurt your skin. Do this 2-3 times a day.
  • Have good posture. Make sure you are standing or sitting tall, which will help your shoulder fall into a better position. Our physical therapists can also show you specific posture exercises to restore your posture.
  • Gently exercise. Swinging your arm in a gentle circle, while dangling down is soothing for the shoulder. However, be careful when exercising the shoulder and see your physical therapist for the correct exercises to perform, based off your condition.

What if my pain continues?

It is important that you don’t let shoulder pain go on more than a week. You should see a physical therapist to determine what is exactly causing your pain or determine if you have a tear after an injury. It is possible that you may need an additional follow up with a physician for cortisone injections or medication. However, most cases of rotator cuff injuries or shoulder pain can be easily treated with physical therapy. In severe cases, surgery may be needed to repair the torn rotator cuff.

You don’t have to live with shoulder pain and since rotator cuff tears are common as we get older, it is important that you have the right professional examine your shoulder. Trust our physical therapy experts to evaluate your problem thoroughly and put you on the right treatment plan to a pain free shoulder. Call us today to speak with one of our physical therapists about your shoulder pain and return to the activities you love to do.



How to relieve shoulder pain

Aching Shoulders? What you need to know about your rotator cuff…

If your shoulder is painful with certain motions or when you sleep, your rotator cuff could be giving you trouble. You need the strength of your rotator cuff to help you do all sorts of activities from brushing your hair and teeth, to lifting objects overhead and even throwing a baseball. The rotator cuff is the group of four muscles that surround your shoulder joint, guiding the way your shoulder moves. When the rotator cuff is weak or injured, poor shoulder movement occurs, causing inflammation and pain.

An injured rotator cuff is often the result of repetitive or forceful movements of the shoulder and is one of the most common upper body injuries throughout any age. In fact, rotator cuff tears become a normal finding as people get older. Studies show that 30% of those under the age of 70, and 70% of those over age 80 have a rotator cuff tear.

Relieving shoulder pain for good

There is hope for relieving shoulder pain and it comes with proper motion and strengthening of the shoulder. The goal of treating a rotator cuff tear is not necessarily to heal the torn muscle or tendon. People can achieve pain relief and improve strength simply by relieving inflammation and restoring normal shoulder joint movement. This is accomplished with the right physical therapy and anti-inflammatory treatments, including medications, cortisone injections and ice applications.

What you can do

Here are some simple tips for improving your shoulder pain:

  • Rest and ice frequently. Ice for 10 minutes right on the shoulder joint, even if it aches in your mid arm area.
  • Sleep hugging a pillow. This helps to properly space the shoulder joint. Tuck the pillow deep in your underarm.
  • Stand up against a wall and gently squeeze your shoulder blades back and together. Don’t shrug your shoulders. This helps retrain proper shoulder posture.
  • Avoid heavy lifting, carrying groceries on that side and repetitive reaching up overhead, even if it is a light object such as a cup.
  • If your pain doesn’t go away in 3-4 days, seek help from our physical therapists.

The goal of physical therapy is to improve the function of the muscles that surround the shoulder and to help the mobility of the joint. Physical therapy targets the smaller, but important muscles around the shoulder that are commonly neglected. By strengthening these muscles, physical therapy helps compensate for damaged tendons and improves the mechanics of the shoulder joint.

Our physical therapists perform gentle hands on therapy to restore proper shoulder motion and educate you on important techniques and exercises. They greatly accelerate shoulder pain relief pain and restore proper motion for long-term results. The truth is that the vast majority of people who have a rotator cuff tear will not need surgical treatment and can be helped tremendously with physical therapy. Call us today to learn more about our shoulder program and how we can help relieve your pain!