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When it comes to sleep apnea, using a CPAP machine can help you finally get the sleep your body needs. But what if you’re using a CPAP machine or other medical device to breathe easily in your sleep and still wake up with a sore neck or shoulder? Your neck and cervical spine are close to your upper airway, so you could experience issues with sleep apnea and problems with your neck.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

If you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), your cartilage and bone structures around your airway can experience issues. It can occur if you carry excess weight, have abnormalities in your face or jaw (TMJ), or in your airway. What we do know is that cervical spine lesions, fusions, and abnormalities can lessen breathing (retropharyngeal) space and coincide with OSA from bad posture and a lessening of your range of motion. Your neck structures can also affect your upper airway because of the flexing or bending of your neck.

Positional Therapy & Sleep Apnea

When it comes to OSA, some people are positional and non-positional sleepers. People who are positional struggle with their breathing when they sleep on their backs. Switching to sleep on their side can help alleviate their apnea symptoms. It is something to consider if you suffer from mild to moderate obstructive apnea. If you find yourself with neck pain when sleeping on your side, investing in a special side sleeping pillow may make a big difference in your comfort level by diminishing neck pain while allowing you to breathe and sleep easier.

Others with sleep apnea can wake up with shoulder pain from sleeping on their side. Constant side sleeping can wear down your cartilage joints over time and leave your joints, tendons, and muscles inflamed. For example, it can happen if you sleep on your side with an arm under your pillow. While sleeping on your side helps bring more airflow into your lungs, it can also lead to a rotator cuff or elbow pain. If this is something that happens to you, you might want to try sleeping with a CPAP side pillow or cervical pillow that supports your neck.

Tips to Avoid Shoulder Pain While Sleeping

  • Don’t sleep on the side where your shoulder hurts. Alternate sides or even try sleeping on your stomach to relieve shoulder aches and pains.
  • Have a pillow you can roll onto to avoid sleeping on your painful shoulder.
  • Keep your blood flowing and circulating by doing daily gentle shoulder stretches and exercises.
  • Don’t strain your shoulder during your daytime activities.
  • Short-term pain relief can be found using OTC pain relievers when taken before you retire for the night.
  • Maintain a normal sleep schedule, which will acclimate your body to want to sleep. Log out of your laptop, tablet, or phone and drink a soothing beverage (golden turmeric milk or sleepytime tea). Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages that could disrupt your sleep.

Sweet Relief

You deserve a good night’s sleep every night for the best possible quality of life. Treating one condition should not lead to other conditions. With trial and error, you can find the best sleeping position for your needs. Our sleep team is happy to help you find the relief you need to overcome your sleep apnea!