Shoulder help

I'm having some serious pain in both shoulders...prolonged pressure on them makes matters worse, so I have trouble sleeping as I can't lie flat on my back or sides. Some days my arms and shoulders are so bad that I can't raise my arms above the horiziontal position, and even getting them to that height ain't much fun.

I need something to keep most of the weight off my shoulders when I lie down. The best I can come up with is not to go to bed but sleep in my reclining chair. That way I can position a cushion at the the bottom of the chair back so the top of the cushion is level with the bottom of my shoulder blades. I then hang a pillow over the back of the chair 'til it lines up with the base of my neck. That way there is a gap between the bottom of the pillow and top of the cushion where my shoulder joints are positioned. This does somewhat ease the pressure on my shoulders, for a time anyway. Problem is the cushion tends to move and flatten after awhile and I wake up with pain and stiffness, and have difficulty re-positioning things. I've been thinking about replacing the cushion and trying a piece of high density foam, but exactly where I get this sort of stuff from I really don't know. It would have to be a certain thickness as well.

Cripes...RA sure does give rise to some fun'n games don't it!!

I've asked occupational therapy if there is some sort of aid to help but she was at a loss, so thought I 'd ask on here to see if someone can suggest something? Bit of a tall order, but you never know your luck.

Should add that I only recline the back of the chair a little to go to sleep as this helps keep the weight off my shoulders.

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23 Replies

  • Hello. I empathise, having had similar, but only in one shoulder. I was given a steroid jab, but only physiotherapy helped.

    It has been slow progress, but now much improved. The physiotherapists explained the reason for the night time pain but, like you, it was trial and error until the exercises helped.

    Sorry, not able to help in a more practical way.

  • Thanks lily,

    I should have mentioned that I've decided not to take any immune suppressing meds, including steroids, since last march. Reason being that I get recurring infections, one of which led to me getting sepsis when I was on enbrel back then. I run a higher risk of getting sepsis again when taking immune suppressors. That said, I'm seeing my rheumatologist this afternoon as my RA has got so bad, I'm nigh on housebound, that I can't go on like this any longer, so am going to, reluctantly I add, ask her about going on a low dose of something, probably methotrexate, which has worked well for me in the past. Problem is I've had a stubborn skin infection for 4 months so not sure if she will start me on anything 'til it clears. As you can see, unfortunately for me I'm not an easy case to treat and a bit of a rarity according to my rheumatologist.

    edit.... I've recently started going to physiotherapy and they gave me some exersises to do, which I could manage in the beginning. Trouble is, this past few weeks my flares have become so frequent and painful that I've had to stop doing them. I could not do any during my last physio appointment (it was an ordeal just getting to the hospital because my knees are so bad) I was flaring at the time. As you can probably tell..I'm not in a very good place at the mo. :(

  • Have you tried a triangular pillow. I too suffer from shoulder pain and can't sleep on a regular shaped can squish up a triangular pillow & arrange it so that you are comfortable.

    You can buy foam cut to shape....look on Amazon....there are sites showing different shapes it can be cut to.

    Hope you are back sleeping in your bed soon.


  • Yep, I've tried a triangular pillow but unfortunately it doesn't help.

    The amazon foam looks interesting, will definitely look into that.

    Thanks Katyhy

  • I sleep with a memory foam contour pillow. I never sleep with my arm up beside my head. I also do stretching exercises within reason to help with my neck and shoulders. Never go to a chiropractor for an adjustment. It makes our problems worse. Hope you are able to ease your pain and heal.

  • Thanks Trish, My wife suggested memory foam. How firm is it? is said to mould itself to your body shape, which I don't think will be much use to me as I need something reasonably firm to help keep my shoulder joints off the back of my chair if that's possible. Would never entertain a chiropractor.

  • Check out Bed, Bath, and Beyond. You won't be sorry. It is very comfortable. The more you use it the better my neck feels. I even travel with it.

  • Seems like I'm going wrong somewhere...when I google bed, bath, and beyond all I get is a company that sells bedding and other household stuff.

  • Try googling contour neck pillow.

  • I've got one of wife bought it for me a couple of months ago. I use it to support the back of my knees when I sleep. Will be a bit akward to use in my reclining chair but will give it a go. If it doesn't work out then I've come across another type of neck pillow during my search, which I think will be more suitable for my chair. My made to measure foam cushion is on its way.

    Thanks Trish

  • Having suffered pain on both shoulders for last 8 months i have found that putting two ordinary pillows in the bed in a v shape coming down from middle of the two pillows I sleep on is the only way I get any relief from the pain. That way both shoulders are supported. It's a bit like being in a dip but works for me. I tried the v shape pillow but it didn't work for me (use it for sitting up and reading). Hope you find something that helps. X

  • I've tried the two pillows thing, unfortunately it doesn't help any. The problem is when I lie down, or even sit back in a chair, it doesn't take long for my shoulder joints to start hurting once they come into contact with the chair back etc. The longer my body weight pressure is on them the worse the pain gets. As soon as I sit upright the pain starts to ease. I can't very well sleep in that position though. :)

    Thank Susan

  • When my shoulders were very sore, and even now if I've had an achy day, I sleep in bed with a v shaped pillow. I put the joined end on top of two pillows and suspend my shoulder in the gap between the v. This prevents the shoulder from touching anything. I also use a heated pad during the day as heat always seems to help my pain. I hope things get better for you.

  • Thanks for that creaky. Heat does help a bit, currently using a hot water bottle, which is not the most comfortable thing to have stuffed between your shoulders, so will have a look at one of those heated pads you mention.

  • Thanks for the replies everyone. Think my best bet is to to get some foam cut to size by a company called efoam on amazon. It will replace the cushion and I can order the exact size, including thickness, shape and density I need. A bit of guesswork involved but will plumb for a very firm type of foam with one rounded edge. Will cost a very reasonable £15. Not expecting miracles but fingers crossed it will give me some relief.

    Thanks for suggesting that Katyhy

  • doctor gave me anti inflamitry cream called diflam , which gave pain relief. we get a lot of muscle pain with r.a.

  • Yeah, I think a lot of the pain in my arms is muscular. Will ask my GP about


    Thanks Dina

  • I was prescribed Amitryptaline (?) Its a painkiller which also helps you get to sleep. Its the only thing that stopped my shoulder pain. I need my shoulder replaced, that's how bad mine is :)

    And I used to recline in bed, not properly lie down, with a pillow supporting the arm so that it didn't pull down on the muscles in the shoulder. That is what was causing my pain. The painkiller has had an amazing effect, I don't have the horrendous pain I was before, couldn't sleep, couldn't get comfy, couldn't use the arm. Now, I sleep, but I don't use the arm above shoulder height. Basically, if it hurts - stop !!!

  • Sorry to hear your shoulder is so bad that you need a replacement. I dread the thought of mine getting to that state!

    My wife is on amitryptaline for nerve pain, especially bad in her feet. She has also suggested that I ask my GP about it. It does help with her pain and she certainly sleeps like a log.

    I saw my rheumatologist today and she is starting me back on methotrexate and also wants me to go on abatacept as she reckons my RA is so bad (tell me about it) that she doesn't think methotrexate on its own will have much of an affect. I don't mind going back on methotrexate and reluctantly agreed to trying abatacept, but am currently having second thoughts as it was enbrel, another biologic, that played a significant part in me getting sepsis back in march and no way do I want to raise the risk of getting that thing again!!...even though my rheumatologist said that recent findings claim that abatacept has a less negative affect with infections (I get recurring UTIs) than other RA meds.

    So, with that little lot going on I don't think it's worth me asking about amitryptaline. Thanks anyway Sandra.

  • Hi wishbone, about memory foam it is incredibly firm, it does not wrap round you it keeps you in place unlike a mattress that gives while you lay on it. With memory foam you stay in one place and the foam indents to your shape but it's only approx an inch maybe two. It's been superb for me, if you sleep with a partner you do not roll together. I sleep on my memory foam mattress then when I lay on my side I'm not rolling forward it allows me to put a pillow in front of me which I rest my arm on. I find if I keep my arm level with my shoulder the pain is substantially less as I am supporting my arm and shoulder. Would never go back to a normal mattress.


  • Thanks for that Shazbat, Yeah, I think memory foam would probably have been better than the piece of foam I ended up buying. Trouble was/is getting it cut to the right size like I could with this piece, which did the trick by the way. :) Though I could have had it cut a little shorter and less thick, plus a medium instead of firm foam would have been more comfortable.

  • Hello wishbone and all--

    The shoulder problem has become a real pain for me too. Can't wear a brasserie as the strap even brushing across is unbearable. I have rather broad shoulders for a woman. This is the combo that has helped me. I sleep with two stacked pillows, the bottom firmer than the top one so my face isn't pressing into a "board". In front of the two stacked pillows, I have a small pillow, kind of smushy, the length of the two bed pillows. My head is supported by the two stacked pillows and shoulder bearing very little weight, is comforted by the smushy pillow infront. Please, if you must sleep in your chair, do put your feet up and recline! My dear father in law slept in his chair for this very reason and developed terrible edema with his feet hanging down.I appreciate hearing your thoughts all of you on shoulder help. Keep seeking a solution! Take care!

  • Your shoulder problem sounds very similar to mine, and glad that your method of keeping weight off them is helping.

    No worries..I always have my feet up when sleeping in the chair.

    Glad that I haven't got to wear a brasserie by the sound...being a bloke does have some pluses I guess. ;)

    thanks mama

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