Experiencing neck pain first thing in the morning is a common problem that I see at Natural Chiropractic. Blame is often put on the pillow but it isn’t that simple, it could be the mattress, poor daytime posture, wear and tear, stress, lack of exercise or too much alcohol the night before!
Do you wake with neck pain in the mornings?
Neck pain in the mornings can be caused by lying in a poor position whilst you are sleeping, a poor pillow or mattress. An old mattress can mean sleeping with a dip in the bed and a badly aligned spine, or a flat pillow will not give your neck and head any support.
If you are in an awkward position for 7-8 hours this can cause joint stiffness and muscle spasm in your neck.
Poor posture during the day can also cause chronic irritation in the neck muscles. Driving for hours, sitting at a desk, looking at your phone too long, stress these can all create chronic neck tension. Once you stop moving your neck at night, tightness builds in the muscles and causes pain in the mornings. To start with the pain can ease as you move around or have a hot shower but it is a sign that something is wrong and can get worse or last for longer.
Side sleepers: Most people sleep on their side and problems with this include scrunching your shoulder up, putting your arm up under your head which squashes the neck joints, or back pain from the top leg pulling in a downward angle.
Back sleepers: This is the next most common position. Problems can occur if the neck is too far forward or in some cases, especially spondylotic spines, too far back.
Stomach sleepers: Having your neck turned all night can cause stress in the joints and muscles causing them to become stiff and sore.
How to sleep comfortably
There are many pillows on the market and I have my own preference but this is what you should be looking for.
Side sleepers: Use a thick pillow, or even two pillows, to take up the full space between your neck and your shoulder. This keeps your neck straight and your shoulders back. Having the right sized pillow should take away the need to put your arm underneath it for more support, and take away the numbness in your arms that can cause.
If you are having trouble with your lower back especially true for those with prior sacroiliac pain or during pregnancy a pillow between the knees can reduce the pull on the lower spine and pelvis.
Back sleepers: Use a pillow with a small roll to sit in the curve of the neck to keep the arch in the cervical spine. A thick pillow in this position causes the neck to flex forward, stretching neck muscles, this an pinch the nerves that go to the arms, causing pins and needles in the hands and arms and restricting your airflow making you more likely to snore.
Stomach sleepers: Position your pillow on the back of your head, so your face points down at a 45 degree angle. This keeps your nose out of the mattress allowing you to breathe, but lessens the angle of your neck, reducing strain on the ligaments and joints that can develop with prolonged extreme rotation.