How to Sleep with Pinched Nerve in Shoulder Blade: 7 Tips

Written by: Alec Tremaine



Time to read 16 min

Struggling to catch some Z's because of a pinched nerve in your shoulder blade? I feel your pain, literally. It's like trying to sleep on a bed of rocks. But don't lose hope just yet! I've got some tried-and-true tips to help you find relief and finally get that elusive good night's sleep.

First things first, let's talk about what a pinched nerve actually is. It's when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues, causing pain, numbness, and weakness. In the shoulder blade area, this can be caused by poor posture, injury, or even sleeping in an awkward position.

But fear not! With a few simple adjustments to your sleep setup and daily habits, you can alleviate that nagging pain and drift off to dreamland. So, let's dive into my top 7 tips on how to sleep with pinched nerve in shoulder blade.

Understanding Pinched Nerve in Shoulder Blade

Woman with shoulder pain

A pinched nerve in your shoulder blade is no joke. I've dealt with that sharp, searing pain that shoots down your arm, and it can really knock you off your feet.

A pinched nerve in the shoulder blade, also known as cervical radiculopathy, can challenge sleeping. It can lead to weakness, numbness, and constant pain that makes even the simplest tasks feel like a marathon.

Symptoms of Pinched Nerve in Shoulder Blade

So, what does a pinched nerve in the shoulder blade actually feel like? Well, it's not exactly a walk in the park. Common symptoms include:

  • Sharp, burning, or aching pain in the shoulder blade that may radiate down the arm

  • Numbness or tingling sensations in the arm, hand, or fingers

  • Weakness in the affected arm or hand

  • Pain that worsens with certain movements or positions

If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, it's time to take action. Ignoring the pain will only make things worse in the long run.

Causes of Pinched Nerve in Shoulder Blade

So, what causes this pesky pinched nerve in the first place? Well, there are a few common culprits:

  • Poor posture, especially when sitting at a desk or driving for long periods

  • Injury or trauma to the neck or shoulder

  • Herniated or bulging discs in the cervical spine

  • Arthritis or bone spurs narrowing the space where nerves pass through

  • Repetitive motions or overuse of the shoulder joint

Basically, anything that puts extra pressure on the nerves exiting the cervical spine can lead to a pinched nerve. And let me tell you, that pressure is no fun.

Diagnosing Pinched Nerve in Shoulder Blade

If you suspect you have a pinched nerve, getting a proper diagnosis is crucial. Your doctor will likely start with a physical exam, checking for pain, numbness, and weakness in the affected area.

To get a clearer picture of what's causing your symptoms, your doctor might suggest imaging tests like X-rays, MRI, or CT scans. These scans can pinpoint any compressed nerves or structural problems in your cervical spine that could be the culprit behind your discomfort.

In some cases, nerve conduction studies or EMG tests may be necessary to assess nerve damage and rule out other conditions. Trust the process and work with your healthcare provider to get to the bottom of your shoulder blade pain.

Home Remedies for Relieving Pinched Nerve Pain in Shoulder

When it comes to managing pinched nerve pain, there are plenty of home remedies that can provide much-needed relief. As someone who's been through the ringer with shoulder pain, I've tried just about everything.

While these remedies won't work miracles on your pinched nerve, they can definitely help you manage the discomfort and support the healing process. Here are some of my personal favorite strategies that I always turn to.

1) Applying Heat or Cold Therapy

Woman applying Ice pack on shoulder

One of the simplest yet most effective ways to relieve pinched nerve pain is by applying heat or cold to the affected area. I personally prefer heat therapy, as it helps relax tense muscles and improve blood flow.

Try using a heating pad or taking a warm shower, focusing the heat on your shoulder blade for 15-20 minutes at a time. If you're dealing with inflammation, you may find that cold therapy works better. Apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel for 10-15 minutes, several times a day.

Experiment with both heat and cold to see what provides the most relief for your specific case. Just be sure not to apply heat or ice directly to the skin, as this can cause damage.

2) Gentle Stretching Exercises

Dealing with a pinched nerve is painful, I get it – moving is probably the last thing on your mind. But I've got a secret weapon for you: stretching exercises. These gentle movements can work magic on your pain levels and flexibility, helping you feel more like yourself again. Don't knock it until you've tried it.

Shoulder Rolls

Start with some simple neck and shoulder rolls, slowly rotating your head and shoulders in circular motions. Be sure to keep your movements controlled and avoid any jerky or sudden motions that could aggravate the nerve.

Shoulder Squeeze

You can also try a gentle shoulder blade squeeze. Simply sit or stand up straight, and slowly squeeze your shoulder blades together, holding for 5-10 seconds before releasing. Repeat this 10-15 times, several times a day.

Chin Tuck

One exercise that can work wonders is the chin tuck. I've found it to be incredibly effective at lengthening the neck and releasing tension in that area.

The way it works is simple - just place your hands on your chin and gently pull it down towards your neck until you've got a bit of a "double chin" going on. Hold that position for a few seconds, no more than five, then relax and repeat a few more times.

  1. Put your hands on your chin.

  2. Pull your chin down gently towards your neck until it feels like a "double chin."

  3. Hold this double chin position for no longer than five seconds.

  4. Relax.

  5. Repeat the chin tuck a few more times.

Not only does this exercise help with pinched nerve pain, but it's also great for improving your overall head and neck posture. I like to do a few chin tucks throughout the day, especially if I've been sitting at my desk for a while.

Give it a try and see how it feels for you. Just be sure not to hold the "double chin" position for too long - a few seconds at a time is plenty. With consistent practice, you may find that your pinched nerve pain starts to ease up.

Remember, the key is to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard. If any stretch causes sharp pain, ease off and try something gentler.

3) Try Sleep Deep Zzzs Sleep Gummies

When it comes to shoulder pain Slumber Deep Zzzs gummies will become your new best friend. These gummies are hemp-based CBD with a hint of THC to combat pain and inflammation. What about helping you with sleep? Good question, Deep Zzzs gummies are infused with CBN or Cannabinol, a compound found in hemp that helps you sleep and encourages natural sleep cycles.

Sound too good to be true? 

That's why Slumber conducted a 300-person independent sleep study to gather data on how well these sleep gummies perform. The impressive results can be reviewed on Slumber’s studies and results page on their website.

4) Over-the-Counter Pain Medications

When home remedies aren't cutting it, over-the-counter pain medications can be a lifesaver. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen can help reduce both pain and inflammation.

Acetaminophen is another option for those who can't take NSAIDs. Just be sure to follow the dosage instructions carefully and don't exceed the recommended daily limit.

If you find yourself relying on pain meds more often than not, it's time to talk to your doctor. They may recommend stronger prescription medications or other treatment options.

Improving Posture and Ergonomics

Woman with proper posture

One of the best things you can do for a pinched nerve, in the long run, is to improve your posture and ergonomics. This is especially important if you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk or driving.

Invest in a supportive chair that promotes good lumbar support and keeps your feet flat on the ground. Adjust your computer screen to eye level, and use a headset if you're frequently on the phone.

When driving, adjust your seat so your knees are slightly bent, and your back is supported. Take frequent breaks to stretch and move around, even if it's just for a minute or two.

By making these small changes, you can reduce the pressure on your cervical spine and prevent future flare-ups of pinched nerve pain.

3 Sleeping Positions for Pinched Nerve in Shoulder Blade

man sleeping on his side

Getting a good night's sleep with a pinched nerve in your shoulder blade can feel like an impossible task. Trust me, I've spent my fair share of nights tossing and turning, trying to find a comfortable position.

But don't lose hope just yet. With a few simple adjustments to your sleeping setup, you can finally get the rest you need to heal and wake up feeling refreshed.

1) Sleeping on Your Back with a Support Pillow

If you're a back sleeper, you're in luck. Sleeping on your back is often the best position for a pinched nerve, as it allows your spine to rest in a neutral position. Don't just take my word for it! According to the  American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), sleeping on your back with a pillow under your head and a pillow or rolled-up towel under your shoulders can help alleviate the pain from a pinched nerve in the shoulder blade.

Want to take your comfort to the next level? Grab a thin pillow and place it under your head and neck for some added support. If you're experiencing lower back discomfort, a small pillow or even a rolled-up towel under your knees can work wonders in reducing pressure.

But don't stop there - I like to go one step further and place a small pillow or rolled-up towel under the natural curve of my  lower back . This extra bit of support can make all the difference in reducing pain and promoting a good night's sleep.

Just be sure to avoid using too many pillows, as this can actually put more strain on your neck and shoulders.

2) Sleeping on Your Side

Side sleepers unite. Even with a pinched nerve, we can still catch some Z's. Just remember: alignment is key. Keep that spine in line and prop yourself up with pillows.

Start by placing a pillow between your upper arm and your body to reduce pressure on your shoulder. Then, place another pillow between your knees to keep your hips and lower back in alignment.

If you find that your top shoulder is still feeling strained, try hugging a pillow to your chest. This can help reduce the angle of your shoulder and provide extra support.

3) Using Supportive Pillows

No matter what position you sleep in, using the right pillows is crucial for managing pinched nerve pain. Look for pillows that are supportive yet comfortable, and avoid anything too soft or too firm.

If you're a back sleeper, a contoured pillow that supports the natural curve of your neck can be a game-changer. Side sleepers may prefer a thicker pillow to fill the space between their head and the mattress.

You can also try using a body pillow to support your entire body and prevent you from rolling onto your stomach or into other awkward positions.

4) Avoiding Painful Positions

Just as important as finding a comfortable position is avoiding positions that aggravate your pinched nerve. For most people, this means steering clear of stomach sleeping.

Listen up, stomach sleepers: you might be doing your body more harm than good. When you sleep with your face smooshed into the pillow, your neck is forced into an awkward, twisted position that can leave you feeling sore and stiff. Plus, all that added pressure on your lower back can exacerbate any existing pain you might have.

If you absolutely can't sleep any other way, try using a very thin pillow or no pillow at all to keep your neck as neutral as possible. You can also place a pillow under your hips to reduce pressure on your lower back.

Remember, finding the right sleeping position may take some trial and error. Don't be afraid to experiment with different setups until you find what works best for you.

Bonus Tip: Is your mattress too soft?

Woman sitting on soft mattress

The  National Sleep Foundation recommends sleeping on a medium-firm mattress for proper spinal support and alignment. I know it does not sound the "most" comfortable; however, sleeping on a too-soft mattress can cause more pain in other parts of your body, especially your lower back.

Medical Treatments for Pinched Nerve in Shoulder

If you've tried all the home remedies and lifestyle changes but your pinched nerve pain just won't quit, it might be time to bring in the big guns. And by big guns, I mean your healthcare provider.

They've got everything from A to Z when it comes to treatments that'll get you feeling like you again.

1) Physical Therapy and Exercises

First up, physical therapy. I know, I know - the idea of exercising when you're in pain sounds about as appealing as a root canal. But trust me, it can work wonders, and its benefits have been peer-reviewed in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy.

A physical therapist will show you exercises to improve strength and flexibility in your neck, shoulders, and upper back. They might use some fancy techniques like manual therapy, cervical traction, or joint mobilizations to really get things moving.

And the best part? They'll teach you how to modify your daily activities so you're not constantly aggravating that pinched nerve. It's like having a personal coach for your shoulder.

2) Medications and Injections

Woman getting corticosteroids

Now, if you're more of a "just give me a drug" kind of person, there are options for you, too. For more severe pinched nerve pain, doctors might prescribe muscle relaxants or nerve pain medications like gabapentin or Corticosteroids.

If you're really looking to kick that  inflammation to the curb, oral corticosteroids can help. And if you want to get really targeted, steroid injections near the affected nerve can provide some sweet, sweet relief.

Just keep in mind that these injections are like a band-aid - they'll help in the short term, but they're not a long-term solution.

3) Surgery for Severe Cases

Now, I know what you're thinking - "Surgery? No thanks, I'll just live with the pain." But hear me out. If you've tried everything else and your pinched nerve is still making your life miserable, surgery might be the way to go.

The goal of surgery is to take the pressure off that poor, innocent nerve. Surgeons might remove bone spurs, part of a herniated disc, or even widen the space where the nerve passes through.

Some common procedures include anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) or  cervical foraminotomy . I know those sound scary, but they're actually pretty routine.

Of course, surgery is always a last resort. But if you've exhausted all your other options, it might be the key to finally getting some relief.

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Pinched Nerve in Shoulder

Now, I know what you're thinking - "Lifestyle changes? Boring." But hear me out. Making a few simple tweaks to your daily routine can actually go a long way in managing that pesky pinched nerve.

And the best part? These changes don't cost a thing (well, except maybe a little bit of willpower).

1) Maintaining Good Posture

First things first - let's talk posture. I know, I sound like your grandma nagging you to sit up straight. But good posture is crucial for keeping those nerves happy and healthy.

When you're standing, imagine there's a string pulling you up from the top of your head. Keep your shoulders back, chin parallel to the floor, and ears above your shoulders. When sitting, keep that back straight, shoulders relaxed, and feet flat on the ground.

And for those workaholicss out there, take breaks from sitting or standing in one position for too long. Your body (and your sanity) will thank you.

2) Incorporating Regular Exercise

Man and woman exercising

Next up, exercise. I know, I know - the mere thought of working out when you're in pain is enough to make you want to curl up in a ball and cry. But regular exercise is actually one of the best things you can do for a pinched nerve.

Improve your flexibility and fortify the muscles around your nerves by incorporating stretching and range of motion exercises into your routine. Walking or swimming are excellent low-impact options that won't put undue stress on your body.

And don't forget about those all-important postural muscles in your back and core. A strong foundation can work wonders for keeping everything in alignment.

3) Managing Stress Levels

Now, let's talk stress. I know, easier said than done, right? But high-stress levels can actually cause your muscles to tighten up, which can make pinched nerve pain even worse.

Feeling overwhelmed? Take a deep breath and try some relaxation techniques. Meditation, gentle yoga, or even just taking a few minutes to do something you enjoy can help reduce stress levels. Remember, your mental health is just as important as your physical health, so don't hesitate to reach out for professional support if you need it. If you are looking for daily stress relief, try our Afternoon Delight Gummies. These gummies kick stress to the curb and contain over 50mg of cannabinoids to induce the entourage effect help with stress and pain*.

4) Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Last but not least, let's talk about weight. Carrying around extra pounds can put added strain on your spine, which can contribute to pinched nerves.

But here's the good news - even a modest weight loss can provide significant pain relief. Focus on a balanced diet and regular physical activity to keep your weight in check.

And remember, slow and steady wins the race. Crash diets and extreme exercise routines will only make things worse in the long run.

So there you have it - a few simple lifestyle changes that can make a big difference in managing pinched nerve pain. Trust me, your shoulders (and your overall health) will thank you.

How to prevent a pinched nerve in the shoulder blade?

Preventing a pinched nerve in your shoulder blade is all about taking care of your body and being mindful of your posture and movements. Here are some tips that have worked for me:

  • Make sure your workspace is ergonomically friendly. Invest in a good chair that supports your back and keeps your feet flat on the ground. Position your computer screen at eye level to avoid straining your neck.

  • Take frequent breaks throughout the day to stretch and move around. I like to set a timer to remind myself to stand up and do some simple shoulder rolls and neck stretches every hour or so.

  • Be mindful of your posture, especially when sitting or standing for long periods. Keep your shoulders back and down, your chin tucked, and your ears aligned with your shoulders.

  • Incorporate regular exercise into your routine to strengthen the muscles around your shoulder blades and improve flexibility. I'm a big fan of yoga and swimming, but find what works for you and stick with it.

  • If you're prone to sleeping on your side, try hugging a pillow to keep your upper arm and shoulder in a more neutral position. This can help prevent your shoulder from rolling forward and compressing the nerves.

Remember, prevention is key when it comes to pinched nerves. By taking small steps each day to take care of your body, you can reduce your risk of developing this painful condition. Your shoulder blades will thank you!


There you have it—my top tips on how to sleep with a pinched nerve in the shoulder blade. Dealing with this pesky pain is not always easy, but these strategies can make a world of difference.

To find your perfect sleeping position, don't be afraid to play around with different arrangements. Keep trying until you discover one that feels just right and takes the pressure off your shoulder. And remember, ice packs and heating pads can be your best friends during this process!

Consistency is also crucial. Stick with your new sleep habits and be patient. Over time, you'll start to notice improvements in your pain levels and quality of sleep.

But if the pain persists or gets worse, don't hesitate to check in with your doctor. They can provide more personalized advice and treatment options tailored to your specific case of pinched nerve in shoulder blade.

Wishing you a peaceful slumber and a healing journey that brings you renewed strength and vitality.

Alec Tremaine headshot

Alec Tremaine

Health and Wellness Expert, Sleep Enthusiast