One common complaint that patients make is that they are unable to sleep comfortably at night and that their pain wakes them frequently.

There are 3 main sleeping positions:

  • Back
  • Side lying
  • Stomach

Majority of people are side sleepers, and they usually assume a fetal position.

However, studies show that sleeping on the back is generally recommended as there is no pressure on the joints and muscles. Also, the body is in neutral alignment.

Side lying is also a good position to sleep in, but places undue stress on the joints. In this position, the affected shoulder bears the entire weight of your upper body or torso night after night.

Sleeping directly on the shoulder increases joint pressure. In turn, this will lead to increase inflammation, soreness, and muscle pain in the already injured extremity.

The same issue arises with a hand injury.  Sleeping on the affected hand will increase pressure and restrict circulation.  This may result in compression of a nerve, tingling in the hand, or increase pain.

The least advised position is sleeping on the stomach.  Sleeping on the stomach facilitates forward positioning of the shoulders and in general poor alignment.  Also, it results in wear and tear on the neck due to continuously sleeping on one side.

However, each of us has our favorite sleeping position and it is sometimes difficult to change our habits.

In addition, we move frequently while sleeping and may go through all three sleeping positions during the night.

Whether you are a back sleeper, side sleeper or stomach sleeper, when you have arm or hand pain, it can be difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position.

So, what should you do when your arm and or hand pain prevent you from sleeping?

If you have a shoulder injury, it is best to avoid sleeping on the affected shoulder, but as you know, we seldom stay in 1 position for the duration of the night.

If you are a back sleeper, place a pillow along your waist on the affected side and rest the affected arm on top of the pillow. Also, you can place a pillow, along your affected side to prevent rolling over on your injured shoulder.

It is also good to place a pillow under your knees as it takes pressure from the lower spine and provides more comfort during sleep.

If you are a side sleeper, turn to the unaffected side and place a pillow along your waist of the affected side. Place your injured arm on top of the pillow. Also, to promote proper spinal alignment, place a pillow between your knees.

If you have pain in your elbow or suffer from tennis elbow, sleep with arm bent resting on a pillow to relieve pain.

Sleeping with the arm straight puts more strain on your forearm muscles. Modify using previously suggested pillow placements if you side or back sleeper.

If you have had a wrist or hand injury including fracture, sprain or tendonitis, you can use the same position described earlier as for the shoulder sleeping on your back.

Also, use your wrist or hand brace for support. Keeping the wrist elevated will also assist with reducing inflammation.

Finally, make sure that you have a good mattress and pillows depending on your sleep preference whether you are a side sleeper or back sleeper.

Be sure to change your mattress every 5-10 years and your pillows every 1-2 years depending on the quality.

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