Finding the Right Mattress Firmness for Shoulder Pain

If you’re suffering from ongoing shoulder pain that just won’t quit, your mattress may be a key contributor. Choosing a mattress with the optimal firmness can help reduce pain and discomfort in the shoulder area. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll discuss how to select the ideal mattress firmness for alleviating shoulder pain and improving sleep quality.

Causes of Shoulder Pain During Sleep

Several factors can lead to shoulder irritation and aching at night:

  • Poor Sleep Posture – Sleeping in a stretched out or unaligned position can strain the shoulder joints and muscles. This may lead to pinching of nerves or tissue.
  • Mattress Too Firm – An overly rigid mattress doesn’t allow the shoulders to sink in. This causes pressure points that irritate surrounding tissues.
  • Mattress Too Soft – Conversely, a mattress that is too plush allows the shoulders to hyperextend, resulting in pain.
  • Injuries – Pre-existing injuries like rotator cuff tears or bursitis can act up more severely at night.
  • Bad Pillow – Using a pillow that is too lofty or firm can throw the neck and shoulders out of alignment.
  • Sleeping on Side – Side sleeping directly loads weight onto the shoulder which can compress nerves.

The key to relieving nighttime shoulder discomfort is providing optimal support and alignment for the neck, shoulders, and back. Adjusting mattress firmness is crucial.

Mattress Firmness Levels

Mattress firmness is measured on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the softest and 10 being the most firm. Here is an overview of the different levels:

  • Ultra Soft – 1-2 Firmness – Plush and contouring with deep sinkage. Good for lightweight side sleepers.
  • Soft – 3-4 Firmness – Gently conforms to the body’s natural curves. Best for side and combo sleepers under 130 lbs.
  • Medium Soft – 5 Firmness – Provides a balance of contouring support with minimal sinkage. Accommodates average weight side sleepers.
  • Medium – 6 Firmness – Versatile firmness suitable for most sleep positions and body types. Combines support and pressure relief.
  • Medium Firm – 7-8 Firmness – Supportive with light contouring. Preferred by average weight back and stomach sleepers.
  • Firm – 9 Firmness – Very sturdy with minimal conforming to the body. Best for heavyset back and stomach sleepers.
  • Ultra Firm – 10 Firmness – Exceptionally rigid with no conformation to body shape. Too firm for most.

Ideal Firmness for Shoulder Pain Relief

Choosing a mattress that is too firm or too soft can worsen shoulder discomfort at night. The best firmness levels for alleviating shoulder pain are:

  • Medium Soft (5) – This universal comfort firmness cradles the shoulders without allowing too much sinkage. It helps align the upper spine and neck. The plushness prevents pressure points at the shoulders.
  • Medium (6) – With a blend of cushioning and support, medium firmness mattresses help keep the shoulders properly aligned. This firmness allows the shoulders to gently sink in without hyperextending the joint.
  • Medium Firm (7) – Gives enhanced support for the shoulders to rest on. Preventing the shoulder from sinking too deeply also enables better spinal alignment in side sleepers.

While medium to medium-firm mattresses are ideal for shoulder issues, individuals under 130 lbs often prefer softer firmness levels around 3-5. Heavier individuals over 230 lbs tend to require a firmer surface of 7-9 firmness.

Mattress Design Factors

Beyond basic firmness level, certain mattress designs can further assist with shoulder problems:

  • Zoned Support – Mattresses with targeted firmness zones prevent the shoulder from compressing too deeply. Firmer foam layers reinforce the upper back and shoulder region.
  • Contouring Shape – Mattresses that contour closely to the body help maintain proper spinal and shoulder alignment. Memory foam is excellent at minimizing pressure points.
  • Quick Response – Shoulder-friendly mattresses respond quickly to changes in pressure and position. This prevents awkward shoulder angles that lead to muscle strains.
  • Edge Support – Quality edge support ensures the mattress surface remains supportive and level when sitting near the edge. This helps maintain good posture.
  • Responsiveness – Responsive, slightly bouncy mattresses make moving easier. This prevents the “stuck in the mattress” feeling that can tweak shoulders.

Best Mattress Types for Shoulder Pain

Here are the top mattress varieties to consider for improving shoulder comfort and support:

  1. Memory Foam – Conforms closely to the body to keep the shoulders aligned. Use medium density foam that quickly responds to changes in pressure.
  2. Latex – Provides resilient bounce while contouring gently to fill shoulder space. Natural or blended latex prevents excessive sinkage.
  3. Hybrid – Combines contouring foam layers with an innerspring coil base for ideal shoulder support. The coils prevent uneven sinkage while the foam cushions shoulder joints.
  4. Adjustable Air Beds – Allow custom firmness for each shoulder via remote control. Use a medium to medium-firm setting.
  5. Innerspring – Look for zoned innersprings with reinforced support in the upper third to cradle the shoulder area properly. Add a pillow top for extra plushness.

Shoulder Pain Relief Tips

  • Place a small pillow under the arm to keep the shoulder aligned if you sleep on your side. Don’t use an over-lofty pillow.
  • Stomach sleepers should use a slim pillow under the abdomen to prevent over-arching the neck and shoulders.
  • Use supportive shoulder pillows or wedges to assist with injuries, strains or post-surgical recovery.
  • Maintain good posture and supportive lumbar support during the day to prevent shoulder tightness.
  • Perform shoulder mobility stretches before bedtime to release tension.

The ideal mattress allows the shoulder to rest in a neutral, pain-free position all night long. Combining the right firmness and design is key to banishing achy shoulders. With your new mattress, you’ll be ready to sail smoothly into restful, restorative sleep night after night.