Waking up with neck soreness, stiffness, achiness, and pain can take a toll throughout the day. Individuals that experience this regularly wonder what happened while laying down in bed. Individuals can wake up with one or a combination of these symptoms after sleeping. A few ways to prevent neck pain after sleeping and self-care to relieve any symptoms.
The spine keeps the body upright and moving and regularly resists gravity and other forces acting upon it. The neck, aka the cervical spine, is a little more delicate. The neck has the important job of holding up the head. The human head weighs around 10 to 12 lbs, and that’s using proper posture. According to a study, the head’s weight can increase up to 60 lbs. with a 60-degree tilt. This can happen from looking down at a phone for too long. All that weight makes the muscles that support the head and neck work overtime contributing to fatigued muscles.
Then when sleeping, cervical spinal misalignment starts to set in, producing torticollis. Torticollis, aka wry neck, is a condition where the neck gets twisted or tilted at an awkward angle. Babies can be born with it, known as congenital torticollis, and individuals can develop it from various sources. It can be temporary or chronic and can be caused by acute trauma. Torticollis is not considered a condition like ankylosing spondylitis but more like a symptom with overlapping sources.
When waking up with neck pain, it could be that the pillow no longer provides sufficient support, the pillow is too thick, placing the neck in an awkward position, the individual’s sleeping position strains the muscles and ligaments, or a combination. It is usually a pillow that is too soft with no support, which causes neck pain. Maintaining spinal alignment when sleeping is just as crucial as during the day, as it helps to prevent overly taxing the muscles and ligaments.
The pillow could be the answer. A firm pillow will keep the spine in a straight line from the atlas, which is the first cervical vertebra/C1, down to the coccyx or the tailbone. The way an individual sleeps also affects how they wake up. The most recommended sleeping position for individuals with morning neck pain is on the back. Back sleeping might not work for everyone as it can aggravate conditions like sleep apnea. If that is the case, sleeping on the side is the next recommended position. It is recommended to avoid sleeping on the stomach. The head could slip down the pillow edge causing the head to be in a tilted position. This can place added pressure on the nerves that start in the neck, leading to further neck pain or radiculopathy pain that spreads out to the arms or legs.
If neck pain presents after waking, get some ice or a cold pack on it. Try 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off. This will reduce inflammation. Also, over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen can help. If neck pain continues, switch from ice to heat, 20 minutes on, 20 off. If the pain is caused by spasming muscle/s, heat can relax the area and increase blood circulation. A gentle massage on and around the area can help spread circulation and ease the spasm.
Stretching the neck will keep the muscles loose and reduce the risk of ligament, muscle, and tendon strains and torticollis.
Body composition change and losing fat mass are also related to sleep. Losing fat requires the body to be in a caloric deficit. This means having the body use more energy than the body takes in. This is accomplished by restricting calories through diet or increasing calories used through physical activity/exercise. However, most individuals utilize a combination. This can be referred to as calories in/calories out. Losing sleep can sabotage fat loss goals by stealing both the calories in and calories out.
Hansraj, Kenneth K. “Assessment of stresses in the cervical spine caused by posture and position of the head.” Surgical technology international vol. 25 (2014): 277-9.
Preventing Neck Pain from Sleeping: National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.) “How to Prevent Neck Pain While Sleeping.” sleep.org/articles/prevent-neck-pain-while-sleeping/
Professional Scope of Practice *
The information herein on "Waking Up With Neck Pain" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, or licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
Blog Information & Scope Discussions
Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.
We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from a wide array of disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system.
Our videos, posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate to and support, directly or indirectly, our clinical scope of practice.*
Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We provide copies of supporting research studies available to regulatory boards and the public upon request.
We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez DC or contact us at 915-850-0900.
We are here to help you and your family.
Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*
Licensed in: Texas & New Mexico*
Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
My Digital Business Card
What happens to the body after eating healthy? Individuals report the effects of healthy eating,… Read More
Introduction We are constantly on the move throughout the day, from walking, running, or standing… Read More
Too much running can lead to burnout and injuries for even the most hard-core runners… Read More
Introduction The human body and the musculoskeletal system have a unique relationship as they help… Read More
Resistance band exercises can be very useful for injury rehabilitation. As a part of a… Read More
Introduction An exercise routine is highly important for anyone trying to get a kick start… Read More