When you lay your head down at night, you hope you’ll feel re-energized the next morning and ready to take on the world. Instead, you’re greeted with a sore and stiff neck that isn’t making a great start to your day.
There are many reasons why your neck may be painful in the morning and the team here at Texas Spine Consultants, including Michael Hennessy, MD, Andrew Park, MD, Chester Donnally, MD, Robert Viere, MD, and Heidi Lee, MD, want to review some of them here.
How you sleep matters
We’re going to start with two of the more obvious reasons why you may encounter neck pain in the morning, which include:
1. Pillows matter
If you have a stiff pillow or raise your head too high, it can strain your cervical spine while you sleep and lead to neck pain and stiffness when you wake up. It’s important that you find a pillow that keeps the entire length of your spine as straight as possible. For example, if you sleep on your back, having a rounder pillow to support your neck might be helpful, but the pillow should flatten out at your head. This same holds true if you sleep on your side.
While there are plenty of contour pillows to choose from, you may also want to consider a down pillow, which conforms nicely with your head and neck.
2. Position matters
Sleeping on your back is the best practice to avoid neck pain and sleeping on your side is a close second. The one position you’d do well to avoid is sleeping on your stomach, which cranks your spine into an unnatural position and forces your head (and neck) to one side.
Outside of addressing your neck position while you sleep, a great way to offset sleep-position-related neck pain is to perform a series of spine stretches before you go to bed and when you wake up. To get started, click here for some neck-stretching ideas.
Beyond sleep position
While sleep position is a direct cause of neck pain in the morning, there are indirect causes of discomfort. For example, perhaps you’re at a desk all day, and your posture isn’t the best. These overstressed connective tissues at night might become inflamed, leading to morning neck pain and stiffness.
Another issue is when you have arthritis in your neck. While you sleep, your neck isn’t moving around as much, which means inflammation has ample time to settle in.
In either of these scenarios, performing a few of the exercises for which we provided a link above will go a long way toward relieving the discomfort. As well, you may want to try using an ice pack on your neck for about 20 minutes to reduce the inflammation. After the icing, you can follow up with heat therapy to encourage more elasticity and blood flow in your tissues.
If your morning neck pain persists, it's a good idea to come see us so we can get to the bottom of the discomfort. We can evaluate your lifestyle, your medical history and turn to advanced imaging to see what’s going on inside your neck.
To get started, please contact one of our offices in Addison or Plano, Texas, to schedule your appointment today.