Could my sleep apnea be the cause of my shoulder pain? Anyone who has crossed over to the 40 years and older club will tell you that you start feeling your age. Recently I began experiencing pain in my elbow caused by tendinitis or otherwise called “tennis elbow”. I thought nothing of it because I coach baseball and chalked it up to pitching batting practice on a frequent basis but this week I had a new ache that had me concerned; shoulder pain. Like many people looking for a quick answer as to the cause of this I took to the internet to try to find a likely cause. I came across an article that described my symptoms to a tee and I was shocked to find out that my sleeping position could be the culprit of the shoulder pain. My knowledge of sleep apnea made me think there could be a link that nobody has discussed before.
Now this may be out of left field but the article I read specifically detailed certain sleeping positions that can wear down the cartilage of joints as well as inflammation of the tendons, muscles, and joints. Specifically it describes sleeping with on your side with one arm under your pillow and for a person with sleep apnea or snoring I can relate to side sleeping as a way to reduce sleep related breathing disorders. I use a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine on a regular basis but I still tend to sleep in a position I have been accustomed to because I have done so for most of my life. It’s pretty common knowledge of spouses to wake up their bed partner and ask them to roll to their side when snoring keeps them awake. When we sleep on our side or stomach it is normal for a person to tuck an arm under the pillow to prop up your head or simply find a place to keep your arms while sleeping in that position.
A light bulb went off in my head when I read that article; how many people that have UN-diagnosed sleep apnea tend to sleep on their side or stomach? Our brain has a natural survival instinct to breathe while we are sleeping and for a person that snores or has sleep apnea and doesn’t use a CPAP machine sleeping on our side or stomach (prone) is way to allow more airflow to the lungs. There are even shirts on the market that have tennis balls sewn into the back to prevent people from rolling on to their backs (supine) which is the position that makes sleep apnea and snoring the most severe. Could sleeping on your side or stomach cause rotator cuff or elbow pain from your arm supporting your head?
My wife suggests getting cortisone shots to relieve the pain however I had found that if I use my CPAP and sleep on my back with my arms to my side the pain subsides greatly the next day. While the cortisone shot would make the pain dissipate I am electing to adjust my sleep position instead to see if I can get some personal data and possibly help others that may have the same symptoms. While it is always suggested to seek advice from your physician regarding treatment and therapy recommendations some pain and discomfort advice can be investigated by simply adjusting your sleep position. I am hoping my shoulder pain, likely caused by inflammation, will go away and I am still holding out hope that my sleep position was the culprit. I have also considered purchasing a CPAP pillow made specifically for users to be able to sleep on their side without discomfort.
For those that are unfamiliar with sleep apnea and may have stumbled across this article by chance here is a brief description of the disorder and recommended treatment option. Sleep apnea and snoring occurs when our airway becomes obstructed and air is restricted to our lungs. Many different factors can be cause of this closure such as excess tissue in the throat that becomes relaxed as we fall asleep or an enlarged tongue or uvula that fall back and restrict air to the lungs. A CPAP machine takes room air and pressurizes it through a mask and hose that is worn on the nose to provide a pneumatic splint in the airway to allow a person to breathe freely with air unobstructed to the lungs.
Think You May Have Sleep Apnea? Take An At Home Sleep Test