Why Does My Neck Hurt Every Morning?

Tom Toulios, DC

Waking up with neck pain can be the fastest way to start your day off on the wrong foot. You’re barely out of bed and the pain already threatens to ruin the day. How can you avoid the morning pain in your neck?

Evaluate your pillow

Pillows are designed to support your neck while you’re sleeping. By following the natural curve of your spine, a pillow should gently hold your head while reducing the pressure on your neck. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all pillow, however. You should choose a pillow based on your own body type and sleep style.

If you sleep …

  • On your stomach:
    Consider choosing the slimmest pillow possible, or skip the pillow completely. When you sleep on your stomach, you put more pressure on your cervical spine. This can also cause you to twist your neck to one side, which can create tension in your neck muscles. If you are already experiencing neck pain, try sleeping in a different position to give your neck some relief.
  • On your side:
    The ideal scenario to avoid neck pain is to keep your neck and head aligned in the center of your shoulders. If you sleep on your side, you’ll need a thick pillow to keep your head elevated properly. Depending on your shoulder width and height, you may need an extra-large pillow if you’re broad-shouldered or a thinner one if you’re petite.
  • On your back:
    While you’re sleeping on your back, the curve of your neck should be similar to when you’re standing. You can tell if you’re using the correct pillow by having someone take a picture of your neck while you’re lying on your pillow. If there is too much curve, you need a flatter pillow.

Want to change your sleep position? Create a barrier around yourself with pillows while you’re sleeping so you don’t move. Try adapting your current sleep position by changing your pillow. It may be a simple adjustment that can end your neck pain.

Revamp your bedtime routine

Before climbing into bed at night, do a few stretching exercises to help your muscles relax. These exercises are specifically designed to help ease neck pain and loosen neck muscles.

  • Corner Stretch:
    Stand in the corner of your bedroom, facing the wall. Put your forearms on either wall, with your elbows below your shoulders. Begin to lean forward until you can feel the muscles in your chest begin to stretch. Stay in this stretch for up to one minute then return to your starting position.
  • Scapula Stretch:
    In your bedroom doorway, raise your arm until your elbow is level with your shoulder. Lightly rest your raised elbow on the doorway. Lower your chin towards your collarbone of the opposite side until you feel the muscles in your neck begin to stretch. Remain in the stretch for up to 30 seconds then repeat on the other side.
  • Lateral Flexion:
    In a standing position, look straight ahead. Tilt your head to the side (moving your ear in the direction of your shoulder) until you can feel the muscles in the side of your neck begin to stretch. Slowly return your head to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
  • Flexion Stretch:
    You can either sit cross-legged or stand for this exercise. Looking straight ahead, begin to move your chin towards your chest until you feel the muscles in the back of your neck begin to stretch. Hold for approximately 10 seconds and then return to a normal position. Repeat 3 to 5 times.

Make sleep a priority

Wake up and go to bed on a schedule. Setting a sleep pattern will help your body learn to relax and can improve the quality of your sleep.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine in the evening. Skip the after-dinner coffee to ensure you are ready to drift off to dreamland when it’s bedtime.

Exercise regularly. An exercise routine can not only help you become more physically fit, but it will also help you sleep better. Exercising 3 times a week can give your sleep habits a boost.

Turn off the screen

When you head to bed, put your phone to bed as well. Leave the screen off until you wake up the next morning. Most people crane their necks at awkward angles when looking at their phone or tablet in bed, creating stress in your neck.  Not to mention, studies have shown that looking at screens before going to sleep can decrease your sleep quality.

Are you struggling with neck pain after sleeping? If your pain hasn’t gone away after 3 weeks, it may be time to seek medical help. Our comprehensive treatment programs can help you recover from neck pain and wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day. Call today!