Having a frozen shoulder can be an uncomfortable and frustrating journey to recover full activity. Sometimes full recovery can take up to 2 years, therefore understanding how to sleep with a frozen shoulder can be very important.

What is frozen shoulder?

Frozen Shoulder is a condition which the connective tissues surrounding your shoulder joint become inflamed and stiff. The symptoms can often vary depending on your lifestyle, hobbies, age etc and often develops in stages.

Although the cause of frozen shoulder is often unknown, it appears to be more common in people with diabetes, thyroid disease and in woman over 40 years old.

How to sleep with a frozen shoulder

Others may be due to a previous shoulder injury, or arthritis which reduces the amount you move your shoulder which leads to the tissues surrounding the shoulder joint to tighten up. Leading to a stiff shoulder.

Having a frozen shoulder can be painful and normally only affects one of your shoulders.

The pain can often be felt in the shoulder and radiate down your arm when it is in its most painful stage. Even simple tasks like brushing your hair or getting dressed can be difficult.

This article about How to sleep with a frozen shoulder is essential  for anyone with shoulder pain.

This short video can be helpful to understand from the shoulder doc 

The Stages of a Frozen Shoulder

The common stages of frozen shoulder are often referred to as:

  • The freezing stage (painful stage): This is where pain gradually gets worse over time and prevents you from moving your shoulder. It often leads to a gradual decrease in your active range of motion.

  • Frozen Stage: This is where your pain may ease but the stiffness remains
  • Thawing Phase: This is where your pain continues to lessen and your movement gradually improves

Importance of sleep with Frozen Shoulder

Sleep plays an important role in any injury recovery.

Muscles and tissues repair when we sleep.

Therefore, poor sleep can impact your recovery. The longer the sleep impact the more it can affect your recovery.

As you fall into deeper stages of sleep, your muscles will see an increase in blood flow, which brings along oxygen and nutrients that can help recover and repair muscles and regenerate cells.

Additionally to this, when the body enters a deep sleep stage know as non-REM sleep the pituitary gland releases growth hormones that stimulate muscle repair and growth.

When the body doesn’t get enough rest, the secretion of this growth hormone declines and it can become harder for your body to recover from injuries. The hormone prolactin, which helps regulate inflammation, is also released while sleeping.

If you don’t get enough sleep, you are more likely to experience inflammation in the body, which can make injury recovery more difficult while also putting you at risk of further injury.


As you have learnt, sleep is important when recovering from a frozen shoulder.

Therefore, finding a way to sleep is essential. There is no one size fits all solution, although here is some things to consider.

  1. Use of pain medication. If pain is your issue then consulting your doctor or pharmacist for advice on suitable medication to help reduce your pain to allow you to sleep is something to consider.
  2. Use pillows to prop your arm into a suitable position.
    For those of your who sleep on your back, a pillow under your painful arm which allows your hand to rest on your stomach may help. Alternatively, for those who sleep on your side, sleep on your non painful side while hugging a pillow to your chest with painful arm, can offer some comfort.
Importance of sleep with Frozen Shoulder

Treatment for Frozen Shoulder

Firstly, we would also suggest if you think you may have a frozen shoulder then ensure you seek a healthcare professionals opinion to rule out other potential conditions it could be.
Secondly, make sure you follow their advice. The majority of frozen shoulders are treated with exercises which can be done at home and must be done regularly.
These exercises often consist of moving the arm through the normal range of motion to help increase the amount of movement you have. They must be done progressively and within your pain tolerance levels. Although expect some discomfort during and after your exercises. Sometimes you may require a ice pack post exercises to help with pain management.
On the rare occasion that you get little progress with exercises alone, then some more extreme interventions maybe required.
Injections – Sometimes doctors will use anti inflammatory injections like cortisone or will inject saline (salt water) into the joint to stretch your tight joint capsule. This procedure is called hydro dilation and can be very effective at getting the range back into the shoulder to allow you to return back to your exercise rehabilitation.

Frozen shoulder hydrodilatation Injections

This animation video highlights in small, simple steps how we at W27 Imaging, perform the injection and we hope you the patient, can feel better informed about your condition and how we try to manage it.


Surgery – although this is very uncommon with frozen shoulder complaints some may require a procedure where a surgeon manipulates your shoulder whilst you are under anaesthetic. This still requires you to do the exercises rehabilitation after but just ensure you have the range of motion to begin with.
Alternate surgery is a capsule release. This is keyhole surgery where the tight capsule of the joint is released with a special radio-frequency probe.

Here to help

At Summit Physio we are dedicated to supporting our patients to find helpful solutions when recovering from pain for injury. We pride ourselves on supporting patients at each stage of the the recovery journey.  

For more information, you can find our other blogs here, and if you are looking for help with your own injury rehabilitation you can email us at or ring us on 0800 731 2738

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