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Trying to find relieve for aching shoulder 02 Apr 2022 00:59 #1

  • skyisred
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I'm trying to find a sleeping surface that will let me sleep on my side without my shoulder hurting/hands going numb. I weight just over 100 lbs so I don't sink in much and have bony shoulders. I've only been trying latex mattresses so far. When I lay on mattresses in 'soft' category, my shoulder isn't happy, but if I go for extra-soft, weirdly, it gets even worse. If the surface is too soft, my shoulder sinks in, leaving my elbow (which is in front of me) at the top of the surface, and this makes the shoulder more 'pointy' which causes more pressure. Does it make sense?
Do you have any suggestions what kind of surface I can try that will relieve the pressure point under the shoulder, but will keep my elbow somewhat more level with the shoulder?

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Trying to find relieve for aching shoulder 02 Apr 2022 11:57 #2

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Unfortunately, I can’t very specifically diagnose via an online forum the reasons for your shoulder pain, nor am I able to witness your sleeping posture in the exact latex specifications that you’ve tested in person, but I can make some general comments about things that help ease shoulder pressure for side sleepers in the hope that they are useful to you.

When lying down upon a mattress your shoulder will sink in a bit, but you won’t maintain an exact duplication of your alignment when standing upright – your shoulder blade will abduct and upward rotate a bit. While the terms “soft” and “extra-soft” aren’t industry standardized terms, if a mattress contained too much ultra-plush material in the uppermost layers, I could understand how you might feel a bit more pressure, as you mentioned, as you would essentially “sink through” those uppermost layers to the typically harder feeling deeper layers within the mattress (I know I’m overly simplifying things, as all of the layers of a mattress work in unison), and if the uppermost layer of the mattress was soft but the padding layer directly beneath it was a bit too hard for your taste, the mattress could still be described as a “soft” but still not comfortable for your specific needs.

Generally, the deeper layers of a mattress have more impact on support and alignment and the upper layers will impact pressure relief and comfort more. “Middle” layers can influence comfort and alignment. How much each person feels each of these depends on the individual, but what most people feel, especially those who are petite, would be the “comfort layer” of the uppermost and middle layers. These will tend to have the most dramatic impact upon pressure point relief, provided you have a good support core inside of the mattress (which most mattresses tend to have).

As for what surface you can try…there could be hundreds of combinations that you might like, and via an online forum the best I could do would be spitballing suggestions. An all-latex product certainly might work well for you, but it would be finding a combination of the proper thickness/softness/ordering of the layers, which might require some experimentation on your end. Configurable component systems can be useful in such a scenario. Sometimes a soft upper layer with a slightly softer layer beneath it can offer some really good relief, sometimes the reverse can work. Your elbow won’t sink to the same depth as your shoulder, as it doesn’t have the same mass as your upper thoracic cavity, so it will generally be “higher” than the level of your shoulder joint. But I can understand if you tried out something previously where your comfort cradle was so deep that there was a large differential between those two levels.

In the past I’ve tested out mattresses that used a softer latex in the uppermost layer, and then beneath that was a layer of a good quality memory foam, and that combination was excellent at providing good contouring and pressure relief. I’ve also experienced all-latex combinations that do a great job of this. And at market this past January I tested out a prototype mattress using layers of quilted memory foam in the uppermost layer, and it was really an incredible feel that contoured but still offered great alignment, but this mattress isn’t in production yet. And all of these are MY opinions, and those are subjective and specific to me, and my body type is also quite different from yours. So your mileage may vary / these stunts performed by a professional on a closed course.

A few tips that might make sleeping upon your side a bit more comfortable (I’ve written about this previously on the forum, in case this looks familiar):

Begin with your pillow and make sure that it is the proper thickness to maintain as neutral of a neck alignment as possible. The thickness of the pillow may have to change as you test out different mattresses, as you’ll sink in different amounts on each bed. When using your pillow, work on placing it directly underneath your head/neck area and not having it draped over the top of your arm. Work on keeping your head out of forward flexion and keeping the weight of your head on the pillow and not on your arm. It's surprising how much of a difference this can make.

When lying on your side, try hugging a pillow to abduct your shoulder girdle. This helps move your shoulder joint forward a bit and reduces the amount of direct pressure placed upon the shoulder joint. You can keep this pillow in front of your torso and under your free arm (upper arm that is not in contact with the mattress). This extra elevation and support helps take some stress off of the upper shoulder girdle.

Another trick that helps to take some of the direct pressure off of the shoulder joint is to place a pillow behind you and lean slightly against it while lying on your side. This lets you relax a bit more and moves the should joint forward just a bit.

In extreme cases, individuals sometimes choose to investigate mattresses with some very specific customizable zones, such as companies like FloBeds offer. Dealing with someone educated and experienced with unique situations like yours is important in such scenarios. There’s also pillow systems, such as those by MedCline, that can provide relief for those with very sensitive shoulder pressure issues.

Overall, I think Phoenix has previously stated is best:
Each person has a different weight distribution and also a different surface area in each part of the body that contacts the mattress and it's the pounds of force per square inch in each area of contact that controls how far that area of the body sinks in to the mattress. As you sink in deeper, then the surface area changes while the weight stays the same (the hips for example are wider and have more contact area as they sink in more which spreads the weight around a larger surface area and reduces pressure) and once the shoulders sink in enough then the torso also begins to contact the mattress and the surface area of contact becomes much larger there as well. The reason that this is so important and that I'm mentioning it is because it's complexity makes it impossible to predict which set of mattress specs will create good alignment in any individual person, and only your own personal testing and/or experience can tell if a mattress has the "support" you need in all the different areas of the body to keep your spine in good alignment in all your sleeping positions.
Jeff Scheuer, The Beducator™ Owner of Mattress To Go
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