Some people hop out of bed and hit the floor running. But most of us need at least a cup of coffee before we are off to the races. However, if you suffer from aches and pains, such as chronic shoulder pain, sleep can often make things worse rather than leaving you feeling refreshed. If this describes you, one solution you need to look into is purchasing the best pillow for shoulder pain.
Using a pillow for shoulder pain can help to relieve pressure on the joint, which causes or exacerbates the pain you feel. These pillows are ergonomically designed and can even help to eliminate other aches and pains. The benefits of pillows for shoulder pain are great, not to mention all the things a good night’s sleep can do for you. So, to get you on the road to better sleep and better health, let’s take a look at what you need to know when purchasing your pillow.
What Causes Shoulder Pain When Sleeping?
In truth, there are many factors that can contribute to shoulder pain when you are sleeping. Your mattress may be too old or low-quality, your bed frame may be uneven, or you may even have an injury or illness such as arthritis that you are unaware of. No matter what is causing your shoulder pain, purchasing the right pillow can help to reduce or eliminate the pain you are experiencing and allow you to rest better.
How Can the Right Pillow Help?
Before we answer this question, we are going to ask one: why do we sleep with pillows at all? The answer is because they help to keep our body in alignment and take pressure off your joints and vertebrae. If you just sleep on the mattress with nothing to prop up your head, it is uncomfortable when falling asleep and painful by the time you wake up.
The best pillow for shoulder pain will help to hold your body in proper alignment while specifically taking pressure off the shoulder joint. Of course, that leaves the matter of finding the best pillow for you. So, what should you be looking for when you go to make your purchase?
What to Look for When Purchasing a Pillow for Shoulder Pain
To purchase the right pillow for your needs, you need to consider several factors. But before you get started, you need to make certain that it really is your shoulder causing the pain. Sometimes the pain you experience in your shoulder is actually referred pain from the neck, in which case you would need to look for a pillow that helps neck pain.
With that said, if you are confident that your shoulder is the problem, there are a few things to look for. The first one to keep in mind is your sleep position. Are you a side sleeper, back sleeper, stomach sleeper, or do you alternate between various sleep positions? Some pillows are specifically marketed made to work with certain sleep positions, while with others, you need to consider how the loft—also known as height—and firmness work with the way you sleep.
If you are a side sleeper, you will want a firmer pillow than back or stomach sleepers. You will also want a pillow with a greater loft to bridge the gap created when you sleep resting on your shoulder rather than flat. Pillows that are too soft will cave throughout the night and those that are too thin are unable to fill the gap.
If you sleep on your back or stomach, the ideal pillow is one that offers at least medium firmness and a lower loft so your body is not forced to tilt up at the neck, which can place strain on your shoulder joints. And if you are a combination sleeper, you will want a pillow that is somewhere in the middle and preferably memory foam so it can adjust to your body as you move.
Also important is that the pillow is designed to stay supportive throughout the night. You do not want a pillow that will flatten as the night wears on, which might feel great as you fall asleep but start causing pain during the night. The fill material also matters; different materials offer different levels of firmness and flexibility. Finally, if you are very picky about your pillow, you might want one that is adjustable, allowing you to add or take away filling as needed to get the right feel for you.
Best Pillow for Shoulder Pain Reviews 2017 - Comparison Table
1 Shoulder Pillow Relief Support System
This shoulder support system is designed specifically for side sleepers. It is a slanted pillow support that allows you to keep using your favorite pillow while taking pressure off of your shoulder. The pillow provides space for your arm to rest without your head or neck placing pressure on it. The slope of the support system aligns the spine and torso to ensure that no pressure is being unduly placed on any part of the body. This system is so good at what it does, it is often recommended by physical therapists, chiropractors, and surgeons. That is some pretty high praise.
No matter why your shoulder hurts, even if it is a problem with your mattress, this support system will combat the cause. You can use this system when sleeping on either side. It can be used on beds as small as a twin, but for comfort, it is recommended that you do not use it unless your bed is at least a full. The loft it offers is significant, so it can take a bit of adjusting to. Also, the company warns that it may take two weeks of sleeping with it to full break it in; in the meantime, it may feel a bit too firm for some.
2 Snuggle-Pedic Ultra-Luxury Bamboo Memory Foam Pillow
If side sleep isn’t for you, or you just cannot pick a sleep position, you need a pillow that will provide you with comfort no matter what. The Snuggle-Pedic Ultra-Luxury Bamboo Memory Foam Pillow is designed to keep your shoulder feeling great no matter how you choose to sleep. It is also designed to stay cool at all times, which means both sides will always be the cool side of the pillow.
The material used in the pillow is all hypoallergenic, making it great for those with allergies or who just want to keep things as clean and comfortable as possible. The entire pillow is safe to wash as well, so you can use it with kids and adults without worry. Some users do complain that it is a bit too firm, but for shoulder pain relief, that is generally best. However, trying it out is risk-free for you; you get to try it out for 90 days to determine if you like it, and if you do, your pillow will be protected by a 20-year warranty. Also, unlike most pillows for shoulder pain, this one comes in three different sizes to fit your bed.
3 MedCline Advanced Positioning Wedge
The MedCline Advanced Positioning Wedge is good at treating more than just shoulder pain. It can also relieve back and neck pain as well as acid reflux and even snoring. This pillow supports the entire upper body, which ensures that there is no extra pressure placed on the shoulders. The arm pocket further relieves pressure on the arm and shoulder and also helps the body to stay cooler during sleep. The wedge comes in three different sizes, and you choose the right size for you based on your height. It has been clinically proven to be effective at helping shoulder pain and acid reflux, so it is a purchase you know you can trust.
The wedge comes with a cover that is removable and washable, allowing you to feel fresh as you sleep. Its biggest downside is that it is designed for sleeping on your left side, so if you are a right-side sleeper, you will not feel as comfortable with this pillow as you would if you were a left-side sleeper. However, if you both suffer from shoulder pain and acid reflux or snoring troubles, retraining yourself to sleep on your left side may be worth it. And since it is made from medical-grade materials, you can trust that it will last you many years.
4 Little Tree Contour Memory Foam Pillow
If you are a stomach sleeper, this one isn’t for you, but if you sleep on your back or side, the Little Tree Contour Memory Foam Pillow is a great choice. Its butterfly-wing shape easily adapts to the curves of your body and helps to take weight off of the shoulder. The material used in the construction of the pillow is both breathable and hypoallergenic, and the ventilation holes help to prevent mold or mildew from growing over time.
This is a very firm pillow, which is ideal for relieving shoulder pain. You can purchase different covers for warmer months and cooler months to get the feel you prefer. Some users complain that it is too small, but it will fit most individuals just fine. If you are worried about your pillow becoming damaged or losing its firmness over time, you can purchase a lifetime warranty on it as well.
5 EasyLife185 Ergonomic Aloe Memory Foam Sleeping Pillow for Back and Side Sleeper
The EasyLife185 Ergonomic Pillow is different from most other pillows that are designed for all sleep positions. Rather than taking the middle ground like most pillows, this one uses an innovative design to offer you exactly what you need whether you are sleeping on your side, your back, or your stomach. As such, you always get the perfect amount of support, even if you change position frequently during the night. And since you can try it for 30 days without risk, you make sure you like it before you commit.
The design features space for your arms in any sleep position, ensuring that pressure on the shoulders will be light and any pain you usually experience reduced or eliminated. It is hypoallergenic and easy to clean. The only real downside users note is that it has a chemical smell when the packaging is first opened. However, most report that this smell is gone within about a day.
6 Sleep Yoga Side Sleeper Arm Rest Posture Pillow
Not many pillows generate a following before they are ever released on the market, but the Sleep Yoga Side Sleeper Arm Rest Posture Pillow did. This pillow got its start on Kickstarter and has thrived ever since it hit the market. The idea behind it is to improve your posture while you are sleeping in the same way that yoga does, hence the name Sleep Yoga.
This pillow is designed to protect the shoulder joint in particular as you sleep. Designed by chiropractors, it also keeps the entire body in proper alignment for superior comfort. Unlike most of our choices for the best pillows for shoulder pain, this one does not use memory foam. Instead, it uses a 45% cotton and 55% lyocell construction, so if you are not a big fan of memory foam, this is the pillow for you. Its only downside is that it is strictly designed for side sleepers, but if that is your preferred sleep position, you are going to love this pillow.
7 Z Shoulder ZONED DOUGH Memory Foam Pillow
Most pillows on this list are designed for side sleepers or all sleep positions, but few are specifically designed to meet the needs of back and stomach sleepers. However, the Z Shoulder ZONED DOUGH Memory Foam Pillow is. The loft and firmness of this pillow is ideal for flat sleep; however, it can also work for side sleepers if needed. It contours perfectly to the body and uses pin cores to cradle the head while supporting the shoulders and neck. While it is a firm pillow, it does not cause neck stiffness due to the use gel dough technology.
Available in three sizes, you can purchase the one you need to properly fit your bed. The gel infusion means that the pillow stays cool at all times, so you won’t feel the need to flip your pillow over and over again throughout the night. It even comes aroma infused, so it helps to add to the ambiance and sooth you to sleep. The biggest downside is that the gel infusion means you cannot wash the pillow, so you will want to invest in quality covers and keep those very clean.
8 ComfySure Full Body Pregnancy Pillow
While this ComfySure pillow is marketed towards pregnant women, the truth is that if you have any type of joint pain, including shoulder pain, it will help you manage it. It is hypoallergenic and washable, though it won’t fit in your machine at home. It stays cool and provides complete support wherever you need it.
One of the great things about this pillow is that you can use it in any position and can easily adjust it around you to provide support exactly where you need it. As it completely surrounds the body, you can flip from side to side without moving the pillow and will still retain the comfort it offers. The biggest downside of the pillow is its size. If you share a bed with another person, you will likely need a king size mattress to fit the two of you and the pillow comfortably. With that said, the comfort it offers is certainly worth it.
9 Z Gel Memory Foam L-Shape Pillow for Side Sleeping
This pillow is from the same makers of our number 7 pick, but this one is designed specifically for side sleeping. It is somewhat softer than the other option while offering the same incredible temperature regulation. It is not washable, but the bamboo cover is. Additionally, it is designed to never lose its shape, so this pillow will last you for years to come.
This pillow is recommended for shoulder pain as well as neck pain and migraines. The only downsides to the pillow are a slight chemical smell that quickly goes away and the fact that its unusual shape means you will need to purchase the special pillow cases made by the company. However, the results it delivers are well worth it.
10 Huzi Infinity Pillow
So far, all the pillows we have looked at were for use at home, but what about when you are traveling? In general, your only options for travel pillows are tiny versions of regular pillows that are lumpy and soft or the standard neck pillows that somewhat support the head but do nothing for the shoulder. The Huzi Infinity Pillow, however, is designed so you can adjust it in multiple ways to provide the support you need where you need it.
The pillow is machine washable and comes in many colors. You can even use it to block sounds and light so you can sleep better. However, it is larger than most travel pillows, so it can be harder to pack, and since there is no removable cover, when it needs to be cleaned, you must clean the entire pillow.
Understanding Nighttime Shoulder Pain
As we have noted, the best way to reduce or eliminate shoulder pain at night is by purchasing the best pillow for shoulder pain. However, this alone may not be enough to completely rid you of the pain. If you purchase the right pillow for your needs and you find that it helps, but doesn’t eliminate the pain, it means that it was more than just your pillow that caused the problems and you need to keep searching to find the source of your pain.
Why do you need to keep searching? Because persistent shoulder pain, even when reduced by using the pillow, can cause a whole host of problems. It can increase your pain sensitivity over time, leave you with less energy, trigger mood disorders, and even cause insomnia. As such, if you are still experiencing any pain, you will want to continue seeking solutions.
The first things to consider are your mattress and your bedframe. Any problems with either of these can continue to irritate shoulder problems even after you switch to a specialized pillow. Look for mattresses that are firm with a memory foam topper and ensure that your bedframe sits evenly on the floor.
If you eliminate your mattress and bed frame as problems, it is time to look into a medical diagnosis. If all of your sleep aids are high-quality and pain persists, it indicates that there is an underlying issue that must be treated in order to eliminate the pain. The most common medical cause of nighttime shoulder pain is rotator cuff tendinitis. This condition can be caused by a number of factors, including tears, bad posture, overexerting the muscles, repetitive strain, and age. Other potential causes of shoulder pain at night are arthritis, shoulder dislocation, and other forms of joint damage.
If these problems are present all day, why does the pain seem to worsen at night? This happens because you remain in one position for an extended amount of time and your sleeping position forces pressure onto the shoulder. Additionally, there is less blood flow to the shoulder when you are not active, which also contributes to the worsening pain.
Other Ways to Relieve Nighttime Shoulder Pain
Once your mattress, bed frame, and pillow are all good, it is time to look into other methods of relieving your pain. Some good options are:
Shoulder pain can be unbearable, and so is life when you are running on too little or too poor of sleep. Instead of suffering through the pain, look for ways to eliminate it—the first of which should be purchasing the best pillow for shoulder pain. Consider the way you sleep and your pillow preferences to get the best one for you.