How Long After Rotator Cuff Surgery Can You Sleep In A Bed

If you’ve recently had shoulder surgery, you need more care and attention. The most discomfort is when you lie down, thus making it difficult to sleep at night. 

How Long After Rotator Cuff Surgery Can You Sleep In A Bed

It is but natural to feel the pain in the shoulder post surgery. Most of us are side sleepers thus putting pressure on our arms and shoulders. But after rotator cuff surgery, this sleeping position can be a challenge.

We hope this article gives you tips on how long after rotator cuff surgery can you sleep in a bed.

The mattress you sleep on, the pillows you use matters while you sleep.  Sleep is a fundamental part of our daily routine and essential for the healing process. In this article,  we are going to share some informative tips that can ensure a comfortable sleep at night after rotator cuff surgery.

Patients are usually recommended to use a recliner post surgery to keep the arm in a reclined position. It would be ideal to also use a wedge pillow which can help sleep in a reclined position.

Best pillows after Rotator Cuff Surgery

What is a rotator cuff? 

Shoulder joints are made  of muscles that are called rotator cuffs. That helps to move your shoulder widely. 

Rotator Cuff Tears

All the muscles surrounding the skeletal structure may be vulnerable to injury due to heavy lifting, large-scale exercise, or a sudden fall.

When the tendon rubs against the scapula, it can cause impact and tear of the rotator cuff.

This condition is very painful, but it is usually treated with non-surgical treatments. Surgery is needed when the pain persists. After surgery, you should follow these key tips. 

Types of Shoulder Surgery

Rotator Cuff Surgery

One of the most common causes of shoulder surgery is damage to the rotator cuff muscles and tendons.

This type of surgery is usually performed when the tendon attached to the scapula is excessively painful.

When the pain persists for more than a few months, surgery is required.

• In a process called debridement, a partial tear is repaired by trimming or smoothing the tendon.

• A complete tear requires reconnection of the tendon to the upper arm bone (humerus).

Reconnection is performed by suturing the tendon to its original location.

Open Surgical Repair

Treatment of humeral fractures with the help of open surgical repair after fractured. During this process, an incision is made in the shoulder to better observe the injury.


Arthroscopic surgery involves inserting a thin pencil device into a small incision in the shoulder.

Shoulder arthroscopic surgery is to repair shoulder joint dislocations, scapula fractures, and rotator cuff injuries.

The acromioclavicular joint is the intersection of the scapula and clavicle.

Surgery to repair the joint damage includes removing the end or restoring the position of the clavicle so that the joint can move freely again.

Acromioclavicular Joint Surgery

The acromioclavicular joint is the meeting point of the shoulder blade and the collar bone.

The surgery for repairing damage to this joint involves removing the end or restoring the positioning of the clavicle to enable the joint to move freely again.

How long after rotator cuff surgery can you sleep in a bed?

Doctors recommend using a recliner for the initial 4-6 weeks after shoulder surgery. But if you invest in a right pillow – wedge pillows which can keep you in a reclined position, you can start sleeping on the bed one week post surgery.

What is the best position to sleep in after shoulder surgery? 

We discuss some important tips for sleeping comfortably after shoulder surgery. This guide will be helpful to get a better night’s sleep.

Use Recliner For sleeping: 

While sleeping, you need comfort. Many patients may not be comfortable on the mattress after shoulder surgery. In such a case the recliner is the best option for you. That gives you comfort, and you can sleep perfectly with a sling. 

But if you don’t have a recliner, then use pillows on a bed and make a 45-degree reclined position with a bundles of pillows. It will be beneficial after rotator cuff surgery and relieve pain and ache during sleep. 

Invest in an Incline Wedge

If you find it difficult to buy a recliner or sleep in a reclining position, you can invest in a 45-degree diagonal wedge.

When placed on the head of the bed, it forms a comfortable reclining position. 

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Sleeping on Your Side

Many people feel better sleeping in a side position as this is how most people sleep.  But this position may result in bad posture and muscle strains.

After rotator cuff surgery, it’s recommended you completely recover before you sleep on your side. Laying on your back is the best sleeping position.

Sleep With Back Position

With a flat back position it is difficult to sleep and not everyone is used to sleeping in this position. Its important to maintain a perfect straight back posture especially after shoulder surgery. 

Sleep on your back is an ideal position according to the doctor after any surgery or otherwise. It helps to relieve shoulder pain and reduce unnecessary pressure from the shoulder.  So train yourself with this position and that should help recover soon as possible. 

Ice the shoulder

Another tip that gives you comfort while sleeping is to apply ice or cold bag to the affected area before going to bed. It reduces swelling, redness, inflammation.

But keep in mind to never apply ice directly to the affected area. Instead, you have to use a towel or other cloth and wrap ice in it. Then apply to the shoulder for up to 20-25 minutes.

Avoid Using your Elbow as Support

In this tip, you should avoid arm movements for the first 7-8 days completely. During the recovery process, if you do the extra movement of the arm and shoulder, it may cause serious problems. It would be best if you avoided heavy object lifting, don’t move your arm to behind, side and overhead. Plus, don’t lay side position or bent position to the affected area. 

Furthermore, rotator cuff surgery can take about six months for a full recovery. So, don’t do anything that is not recommended by the doctor and rest is best needed during this time.

Prop up the arm with a pillow

If you don’t feel comfortable with a sling, take some pillows and place them between the arms that give you comfort and reduce cramping, numbness, and adequate blood flow.  

Moreover, for a resting position, you can build a barrier pillow in a recline position. You can also set a bundle of pillows beside and behind your injured side to prevent rolling onto it while sleeping. Keep the softest pillow for sleeping. And avoid rolling them to the opposite affected position. 

Moreover, avoid silky pillows that can be slippery and are not good enough for sudden shoulder movements. 

Recovery Tips After Rotator Cuff Surgery 

Here are some helpful tips for recovering as quickly as possible after shoulder surgery. So please read it carefully. 

Wear sling or immobilizer properly

Firstly you have to use your sling correctly and don’t remove it without the doctor’s instructions. The first tip that every specialist gives you after a surgery procedure.

It would be best if you kept it up all the time, even at night. It restricts your arm movements and gives support. With an immobilizer, you have less aches and pain at night. It is also helpful to recover soon after any shoulder surgery. 

Doctors recommend wearing an immobilizer or sling 24/7 for 4-6 weeks continuously. During this time, you can’t move your shoulder like you usually do. Be mindful of your arm movements.

Use Medication Properly

Medication is a part of the healing process. Use medication as recommended by doctors. Relying on them for a long time may not be ideal. Instead, exercises and tips that help to reduce pain should be followed. It might take time but eventually you will completely recover.

In any case, follow your doctor’s advice. This includes taking medication as instructed, immobilizing the arm during the day, and resting.

Avoid Extra Arm Movements 

You should avoid arm movements for the first 7-8 days altogether. During the recovery process, any rigorous movement of the arm and shoulder may cause serious problems. It would be best to avoid heavy lifting, moving your arms behind, side and overhead. Do not lie down in a position which can put presuure on your shoulder.

Furthermore, rotator cuff surgery can take about six months for a full recovery.

Do and Don’ts After Rotator Cuff Surgery:

Do’s After Rotator Cuff Surgery:

  • You can take a warm bath after surgery but keep your shoulder covered with a plastic cloth to prevent getting wet. 
  • Avoid sleep on affected side position 
  • Hold your sling all the time, even at night. 
  • Meet your therapist and clear your all doubts about surgery
  • Change your bandage regularly as recommended. 
  • After one week of surgery, you can move your shoulder while walking but in small motions and increase day after day. The movements are helpful to prevent blood clots or jamming the positions after surgery and keep the blood circulation in the shoulder. 
  • You can follow some simple exercises at home suggested by the therapist.
  • Keep the surgery area clean and dry
  • Eat a healthy diet. 
  • Take medication on time. 

Don’t After Rotator Cuff Surgery 

  • Don’t lift heavy objects
  • Don’t move your shoulder wide
  • Don’t drive, don’t push and pull anything. 
  • Don’t remove the sling without the doctor’s recommendations. 
  • Travel only after checking with the doctor
  • If you feel any problem in movement and have swelling in your arm, then immediately see a doctor. 
  • Don’t take pain killers unless advised by the doctor
  • Without a therapist’s suggestion, don’t follow any exercise and diet post surgery. 


How do you sleep in a recliner after shoulder surgery?

The doctor recommends sleeping only in a reclined position after shoulder surgery to relieve shoulder pain and feel comfortable with this position and a sling. You can sleep in a reclined position or recliners up to 6-8 weeks after surgery.  

But if you don’t have a recliner, you can use pillows and make a 45-degree reclined position with pillows on the bed or the couch. Plus, you can also use a 45-degree wedge that is soft to use. 

Can I take my sling off to sleep? 

No, you should wear your sling or immobilizer all the time for a couple of weeks after shoulder surgery. It supports your joints and gives you comfort. You aren’t allowed to take the sling off during sleep.

Sleeping with a dislocated shoulder? 

Sleeping is difficult and painful with a dislocated shoulder. So, specialists suggest you sleep on your back or on opposite side of the affected area.


Rotator cuff surgery is a successful experience for people of every age, and they recover soon if they seriously follow some rules after the surgery procedure. These tips help relieve pain and give you comfort during sleeping. We hope our tips for sleeping help bring some relief during your recovery.

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