Shoulder and neck pain can rob us of life’s simple pleasures. Not only does pain limit mobility and activities throughout the day, it can also cheat us out of the joy and comfort provided by a good night’s sleep. Since sleep plays a critical role our body’s healing process, this pain can actually create a downhill cycle, making it harder for us to ever heal. A good night’s sleep can work wonders, but only if we are able to ease the pain long enough to let our body rest and recuperate.
In our decades of experience in orthopedic care and shoulder injuries, we’ve created an easy-to-use checklist of remedies and home care to help pain-sufferers rest. Whether you’re suffering a minor ache, or healing from an injury, these suggestions should help you rest so your body’s natural healing can take over.
Remember, if the pain lasts more than a few days, it is wise to have a doctor check for more serious injuries or conditions.
- Anti-inflammatories for shoulder pain
When patients hear anti-inflammatories, they often think of ibuprofen or aspirin; however, there are some natural anti-inflammatory foods and vitamins that can work, too. We will go over both.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines like ibuprofen and aspirin often work better than acetaminophen (Tylenol) because they go straight to the source of the pain by reducing the inflammation that’s causing the discomfort.
If you need that little extra push to alleviate pain and lull you to sleep, over-the-counter medications like Ibuprofen PM are formulated to help pain sufferers sleep. These medications add diphenhydramine (Benedryl) to their ingredients, which offers drowsiness as a side effect. Always check medications entire list of ingredients and side effects before taking them.
- Foods to ease pain, tension, and inflammation
A lot of shoulder or muscle pain is related to inflammation and tension. Whether or not you choose to take an OTC medication, there are certain foods and vitamins that can provide all-natural pain relief.
- Turmeric – This spice has been shown to decrease inflammation in certain doses, so consider cooking a meal with heavy dashes of turmeric.
- Magnesium – This mineral has been shown to decrease nerve pain, as well as ease muscle tension and anxiety.
- Potassium – Eating a banana before bed can help decrease muscle cramps, as well as promote deeper, more restful sleep.
- Chamomile – This flower can be found in many “Sleepytime” teas, and can promote relaxation and sleep.
- Melatonin – Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by our brain to help us sleep. Melatonin supplements can help people fall asleep more easily and naturally.
- Epsom Salt bath for muscle relief
Epsom salt baths ease pain in three major ways.
- First, soaking sore muscles in moist heat increases blood flow and decreases painful inflammation.
- Second, Epsom salt has magnesium, a mineral which, as started before, has been shown to decrease nerve pain and ease muscle cramps.
- Finally, hot baths have been shown to promote relaxation and prepare your warm, relaxed muscles for sleep.
- Hot or Ice Packs for Injured Necks or Shoulders
Depending on the kind of injury, heat or ice compressions can help ease inflammation or decrease swelling and soreness. A rotation of hot and cold packs can provide relief for many kinds of pain.
Be careful to never leave warm or cold compresses on the affected area for more than 15-20 minutes at a time. Applying heat or ice for too long can increase pain or injury.
- Gentle Stretching and Massage
Generally speaking, pain and inflammation are enhanced by stiffness; therefore, it’s important to gently stretch the sore area. For certain shoulder or neck conditions, stretching or movement can cause more injury, so it’s important to check with a doctor if you think you have a serious shoulder condition. However, for basic muscle soreness and shoulder inflammation, gentle stretches and movement can help prevent the shoulder from getting stiff, which will cause more pain.
Likewise, a delicate and careful massage of the sore muscles or tender area can relieve tension and stiffness, thereby easing pain. Yoga and massage will also help promote a restful state of mine, improving sleep quality.
Dr. Wilson’s Evening Checklist for Easing Shoulder Pain for Sleep
Since that’s a lot of information to absorb, let’s quickly consolidate it into a simple checklist to help you see how these suggestions would play out as part of an evening routine.
- Take an OTC anti-inflammatory medication like Ibuprofen about an hour before bed, so it has time to kick in.
- Take any Magnesium, Potassium, or other non-drowsy supplements (or foods) for muscle tension.
- Take a warm bath with Epsom salt. The warmth will promote restfulness and ease muscles. Try adding lavender or chamomile to the water for even more relaxation.
- Now that your muscles are limber and warmed up from the bath, do a few gentle and relaxing stretches and movements.
- Add a dab of lavender or chamomile oil beneath your nose, breathe deep, and enjoy a gentle massage on the painful area.
- Lay back on a hot or ice pack for 20 minutes.
- If you choose, try taking a melatonin OR ibuprofen PM to promote sleep.
These simple steps should promote relaxation and restfulness, alleviating stiffness and pain in the shoulder or neck area.
These suggestions are not meant to replace the care of a doctor. They should only be followed for general, low-level muscle pain. If you suspect an injury, or if your pain is severe or has lasted more than a few days, you should see a doctor for more detailed instructions and care. Here are some warning signs you should see a doctor.
Is Shoulder Pain Keeping You Awake at Night?
If you’ve been losing sleep over your shoulder pain, it may be time to see Dr. Wilson. Dr. Wilson has won Raleigh’s Most Compassionate Doctor Award for his careful treatment and firm belief in finding alternatives to surgery whenever possible. He’s worked with award-winning surgeons, and provided orthopaedic care for both the Chicago Bulls and the U.S. Navy.