Sleeping After Shoulder Surgery and Rotator Cuff Surgery Recovery Tips

Injuries to the rotator cuff are among the most common causes of shoulder pain today resulting in over 460,000 surgeries each year. And according to, as many as 3 million people in the United States may be living with a torn rotator cuff, many of them not even aware of their injury.

If you’re preparing for shoulder surgery, rest and immobility of the affected shoulder will be among your best and quickest approaches to returning to the activities you love most.

What is the rotator cuff?

The shoulder is a complex group of interconnected muscles and tendons that work together to provide its normal full range of motion. It’s also one of those critical muscle groups we use for everyday functioning that we tend not to notice until something hurts. We use our shoulders to grab things high out of reach, put on our coats and sweaters, throw a ball, and even simple tasks like brushing our teeth.

What causes an injury to the rotator cuff?

Most injuries are due to a degeneration of the shoulder muscles from using or overusing them over a period of time. An injury can also occur from an acute tear due to overextending the shoulder such during a fall or playing sports that involve increased use of the shoulder for throwing or reaching such as softball, baseball, or swimming.

How do you know if you have a rotator cuff injury or tear? 

Pain or soreness are usually the initial indicators of an injury within the rotator cuff. The pain will most likely linger for an extended period, the muscle may feel weakened, there may be limited movement in the shoulder, and it may hurt to sleep on that side.

Shoulder Surgery Recovery Timeline

Diagnosis for a rotator cuff injury is often confirmed through an ultrasound, X-Ray, or MRI. If surgery is recommended, the recovery time can be lengthy and can take as long as 4 to 6 months. This can vary greatly depending on the extent of the injury, such as the severity of the tear, and the surgical approach recommended by your doctor.

Sleeping After Shoulder Surgery 

Sleeping after rotator or shoulder surgery can be challenging, especially if you’re used to sleeping on your side. Sleeping on the back and in an elevated position can help reduce pain, swelling, and soreness, improve circulation, and take the stress off your healing injury. 

Since the healing timeline for shoulder and rotator cuff surgery is especially long, between 4 to 6 months, a post-surgery pillow is a great investment to make sure you get the rest you need following your procedure. Even a moderate disruption in sleep can impact everything from your mood and energy levels to your body’s ability to heal. 

The Sleep Again Pillow System is a post-surgery pillow uniquely designed to provide comfort and protection while you rest and sleep. Many surgery pillows include some form of memory foam wedge as part of their design. The Sleep Again Pillow includes 5 separate components, including 2 memory foam wedges, 2 full-body side pillows, and 1 neck pillow for maximizing both safety and comfort. 

This allows the user to vary their positions while recovering from surgery at home and is ideal for staying elevated and supported during restful activities such as reading or tv watching. 

Its two full-body side pillows are extremely effective in preventing rolling while you sleep. This is huge for not accidentally slumping onto your side and potentially risking injury to your healing incisions.

“My nest of comfort,” is how one of our customers describes her sleep experience. Read more client testimonials to see what else they have to say!


Shoulder Surgery Recovery Tips

Avoid sleeping on your shoulder and use a wedge pillow for elevation.

After shoulder surgery, it’s important to lay on your back while resting or sleeping to avoid strain on the affected injury. Sleeping in a slightly elevated position will not only improve circulation but can also reduce pain, provide greater comfort, and promote healing.

Wear your shoulder sling as recommended by your doctor.

- It’s critical that you limit your shoulder movement following shoulder surgery or you may risk injury to the repaired area. Plan on keeping this arm immobile for the first 4-6 weeks following your procedure.

Be mindful of ordinary activity that could cause injury.

- Lifting heavy objects, putting weight on your shoulder, raising your arm, and reaching - all of it should be avoided during this healing phase.

Attend physical therapy.

A physical therapist can work with you to identify and work on stretches and light exercises that will help ease your pain and strengthen your repaired shoulder to help bring back a better range of motion.

Ask the important questions before your shoulder surgery.

Should you use ice or heat? When should you change your dressings? What should you wear for ease of comfort? Can you bathe? What level of pain should you expect? These are all things to ask your doctor or surgeon in advance to better anticipate your overall recovery experience.