Can sleeping on your side cause damage to your shoulder?

The shoulder is perhaps the most complicated joint in the body. Many other joints, such as the elbow and fingertip joints are like simple hinges. They can only bend in one direction and straighten out. The shoulder, however, is what we call a ‘ball and socket’ joint and this design allows the shoulder the freedom to move in all directions. Unfortunately, this extra movement in the shoulder joint makes it unstable, and therefore prone to injury. So, when you put weight or pressure on one side of your shoulder it overstretches and strains some of the soft tissues.

One of my patients had the habit of sleeping on her side which I think most of us do. One morning, she woke up with a very severe pain which restricted the normal movement of her arm and had affected all her activities of daily living. Due to her pain and limited motion on her shoulder, she visited our clinic with the hope of solving her shoulder problem and living a pain free and normal life again. In the clinic, after a consultation with our doctor, diagnostic tests revealed instability of her rotator cuff tendons and an underlying damage to the soft tissues surrounding the shoulder joint. Intensive physical therapy sessions were recommended. During the first 2 weeks of her treatment, control of inflammation and pain was administered through the electromodalities and gentle passive exercises for the shoulder was taught and encouraged. The following weeks after the treatment, this patient started gaining back the normal range of motion and the pain had decreased by 70%. A continuous rehabilitation program was carried out with home exercise program. At present, this patient can perform the normal daily activities without pain. She is glad she had her shoulder checked before a more serious problem developed. She can now comb her hair, brush her teeth and change her clothes alone. These activities are very simple for a normal individual to do. It is however, frustrating for a person not to be able to do such a simple task due to pain.

It’s not just a simple shoulder pain or any back pain. Always remember that “prevention is always better than cure”. Do exercise daily, eat proper diet and always strive to achieve good posture in all activities especially at work.

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