Best Sleep Positions for Back, Neck, and Shoulder Pain

Best Sleep Positions for Back, Neck, and Shoulder Pain

A lot of back, neck, and shoulder pain is due to our sleeping positions.

Being aware of the best sleep positions for back, neck, and shoulder pain, and adjusting how you sleep can make a huge difference to how much pain you’re living with.

Combined with the wide range of health benefits that come with getting a restful night’s sleep, it should be a priority to ensure you’re sleeping in the best position for your health.

You shouldn’t be waking up with any aches or pains. If you are, you need to look at how you’re sleeping and the effect it’s having.

Read on for some of the most common sleeping positions and how they may be affecting your health;


Sleeping on Your Back

Sleeping on Your Back

It’s estimated only around 8-10% of the population sleep on their backs. Yet, it’s probably the best position overall for back, neck, and shoulder pain.

While on your back your back and neck is able to maintain a neutral position. This is your body’s natural alignment and can resolve a lot of back pain issues.


  • Prevents back and neck pain
  • Relieves pressure from shoulders to reduce pain
  • Reduces the appearance of wrinkles
  • May help with acid reflux


  • Can make snoring worse
  • Not recommended if you suffer from sleep apnea

Sleeping on Your Side

Sleeping on Your Side

Side sleeping comes naturally for most and it’s a comfortable position to sleep in. It’s a cause of shoulder pain in particular for a lot of people however and can also cause back pain.

You want to find a side position that still keeps your back in alignment. Some positions put a lot of stress on the spine and can cause some seriously painful issues.


  • Can prevent neck and back pain
  • Comfortable for most people
  • May reduce acid reflux
  • Can help lessen snoring


  • Bad for your skin with your face pressing into a pillow
  • Can cause shoulder pain due to the added pressure

Sleeping on Your Stomach

Sleeping on Your Stomach

Stomach sleeping isn’t very common and is uncomfortable for most people. You need a thin profile pillow if you sleep in this position as normal pillows will put too much strain on your neck.

It’s quite an unnatural position and a lot of people end up with long-term pains in their neck, and back from sleeping on their front.


  • Can reduce snoring by opening the airways in certain positions
  • Some people find it comforting hugging a pillow on their stomachs


  • The unnatural position causes neck pains
  • Can cause back pain due to the unnatural position of the spine
  • Face first into the pillow isn’t good for skin

Sleeping in the Fetal Position

The fetal position is a common sleeping position. Not necessarily rolled up in a ball like you’re still in the womb, but curled up on your side.

This position isn’t good for your back and can cause back pain. You’re also likely putting pressure on your shoulder and restricting your breathing.


  • Can reduce snoring
  • Pregnant women often find this position comfortable


  • Can cause neck, back, and shoulder pain
  • Doesn’t help with the appearance of wrinkles

Does a Pillow between Knees Help with Back Pain?

If you currently have back pain you can use a pillow between your knees to take some pressure off your spine and relieve the pain.

If you sleep on your side place a pillow between your knees. Keep your legs parallel to one another and this should make a big difference.

If you’re a back sleeper you can place a pillow under both of your knees to elevate your legs a little and reduce the pressure on your lower spine.

Best Sleeping Position for Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain is common for side sleepers. When sleeping on your side you’re putting pressure onto your shoulder muscles and tendons.

There are two key things you can do to help relieve shoulder pain while sleeping:

Use a pillow – You can position a pillow underneath your shoulder or between your shoulder and head if you’re laying on it.

This relieves a lot of the pressure you’re putting on your shoulder when sleeping on your side.

Sleep on your back – Sleeping on your back is the best position to relieve pressure from your shoulders.

If you’re not a natural back sleeper it can take some time and persistence to train yourself to sleep on you back, but it’s worth it if you’re suffering from shoulder pain.

Best Sleeping Position for Neck Pain

The best sleeping positions for neck pain are side and back sleeping. Different people react differently to each position, it may take some trial and error.

It’s important to have a good pillow too. A memory foam or contour pillow that works with the contours of your neck and responds to pressure can make a big difference.

When sleeping on your side the key is to use a pillow that fills the space between your neck and the mattress. This will help keep your spine in alignment and reduce the risk of neck pain.

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