Waking up with a stiff neck and headache is, well, a pain in the neck! Maybe you had a previous injury or simply slept “wrong” but that stiffness and pain upon waking up is undeniable. This kind of pain can stay with you all day. If waking with a stiff neck is a common occurrence for you, we can help you find relief.
Let’s explore what causes neck stiffness and pain, and what you can do about it. If you want to know how to fix a sore neck after sleeping wrong, you’ve come to the right place.
Causes of Neck Pain in the Morning
When you wake up with a sore neck, you may wonder how it happened. There are several different factors that can contribute to pain and stiffness in the neck upon waking. These causes of neck pain include:
- Sleeping position: When you sleep on your neck wrong, you feel the consequences in the morning. The position you sleep in can affect your whole spine, and certain positions are more likely to lead to misalignment, pain and stiffness. Sleeping on your stomach can be especially hard on the neck muscles, as your belly sinks into the bed and your neck may be twisted to one side or the other. If you are already suffering from back and neck pain, you can adjust the way you sleep to help protect your back and neck.
- Your pillow: It may sound simple, but choosing the right pillow — and using it correctly — can make all the difference. Shop for a pillow that’s designed to cradle your head and neck for the way that you usually sleep. Take the time to adjust yourself and your pillow when you go to sleep to try and prevent sleeping with your pillow at an awkward angle. Aim for positioning that aligns the spine correctly.
- Previous injuries: Sometimes, an injury may not hurt right away, but after sleeping on it, the pain becomes apparent. This can be especially common with sports injuries or whiplash.
- Poor posture: Not maintaining proper posture throughout the day can also lead to neck pain when you wake up. You can work on improving your posture to help prevent pain.
Remedies for Waking Up With a Stiff Neck
If you find yourself waking up with neck pain, there are a few things you can do to help alleviate the pain. Try these remedies for a stiff neck to get some relief:
- Gentle stretching and self-massage: While you may not feel like moving at all at first, sometimes gentle movements and stretches can help neck pain. Gentle stretches can help loosen the muscles, reducing that tight, stiff feeling. Move slowly, working to gradually increase the flexibility of the neck. Try simple exercising like taking a walk or doing yoga. If you are able, you can also use your fingers and the palms of your hands to gently massage the area that is hurting. Skip this step if touching the area increases the pain too much.
- Ice/heat therapy: Applying an ice pack to the painful area can provide some relief. Ice helps to reduce inflammation, but should only be used for 10-20 minutes at a time. Heat can also provide relief by loosening and relaxing tense muscles. Try a hot shower or heating pad to get the benefits of heat therapy. Limit heat applications to 20 minutes at a time.
- Pain assessment and activity modification: After trying the above home remedies, you can conduct a self-assessment for pain levels. Gently and slowly move your neck in all directions, taking note of which movements cause pain, and if the pain has improved after utilizing home therapies. If you notice burning sensations or sharp, unbearable pain, you may want to limit your activity level for the day, avoiding anything too strenuous. However, full bed rest is not recommended as it may make the problem worse. Light activity should be just fine, even with neck pain.
Tips for Neck Pain Prevention
When you’re regularly experiencing a crick in the neck from sleeping, prevention may truly be the best medicine. You can alter some simple daily habits to decrease your chances of waking up with neck pain again. Try these preventative tips:
- Try sleeping on your back instead of your stomach. This puts less stress on the spine. Side sleeping is another option to try.
- If you regularly sleep on your side, sleep with a pillow placed between the knees to promote better alignment of the spine. Also make sure you have a pillow that properly cradles your head and neck in this position.
- Work on maintaining proper posture throughout the day. Pay attention to how you stand as well as your position while sitting at a desk. Avoid leaning forward too much and hunching your shoulders over.
- Be sure to include exercise in your daily routine. Regular physical activity is known to help strengthen the muscles, and can help the neck muscles too. Even gentle exercising like walking or yoga is beneficial.
- Be mindful of how you use your phone. With smartphones constantly buzzing with texts, emails and other notifications, we spend a lot of time looking down at our phones, which cranes the neck forward. This isn’t good for posture and can lead to neck pain and headaches. Practice bringing your phone up to eye level instead of looking down to maintain your good posture. When talking on the phone, avoid tucking the phone into your neck — use handsfree mode or speaker if you’re unable to hold the phone with your hands at the proper angle.
- Use a supportive mattress and pillow. If yours are worn out or sagging, it may be time to replace.
When to Seek Care for a Sore Neck
Sometimes, mild neck pain can go away on its own, or with help from the home remedies listed above. Other times, the neck pain is more severe and stubborn. If your pain is getting worse, or simply hasn’t improved after a couple days of home treatment, it may be time to seek out professional care.
At Thrive Chiropractic Group, we help our patients take control of their lives. Regular chiropractic care with our team can help you get out of pain and stay healthy for years to come. If you are in the Edmond, Moore or South OKC area and are experiencing neck pain and stiffness, reach out to Thrive Chiropractic Group to set up an appointment with a qualified and compassionate chiropractor. We can help alleviate your pain and get you back to your normal routine.