Dealing with neck pain can be a real, well, pain in the neck. Occasional neck pain, especially in the morning, is quite common and often caused by the neck being placed in an uncomfortable position while you’re asleep. This can be due to the way you naturally sleep, the comfort of your mattress, the firmness of your pillow, and more.
Causes of Morning Neck Pain
If you wake up with a stiff neck, it’s easy to assume that you slept the wrong way the night before. The truth is, a tight neck can be caused by a multitude of reasons. As painful as a strain in the neck can be, it’s important to understand the cause, so you can take preventative measures against further damage.
Here is a list of causes that can contribute to morning neck pain:
- Pillow habits: Your pillow should support your head in a position that is neutral, meaning your nose is in line with the center of your spine or body. If your pillow is too fluffy, it might force your neck to bend upwards. On the other hand, if your pillow is too flat, your neck can bend downwards. Consider purchasing feather pillows, as they offer more stabilized support than foam pillows.
- Sleeping position: If you sleep on your stomach, you’re not doing any favors for your neck. In order to lay face down, you need to twist your neck completely to the side, which puts deep pressure on nerves. Sleeping on your back or side is much safer and can reduce your chances at a strain or sprain.
- Weak muscles: The cause of morning neck pain doesn’t necessarily have to correlate to sleep. It can often be due to weak, imbalanced, or injured muscles. The most common cause is poor posture and awkward sitting positions.
- Sleep: Studies suggest that sleep itself is linked to chronic musculoskeletal pain. Poor habits when you sleep will likely leave you with uncomfortable symptoms and a worsening neck. Additionally, if you are a frequent phone user, it’s best to limit electronic use when you sleep so you don’t add unnecessary strain to your head.
Relieving Neck Pain
Depending on the severity of your pain, there can be quick fixes to relieving neck discomfort. To reduce morning pain, try gently rubbing and stretching the neck before and after you go to bed. Ice application can also help lessen the pain, so you can comfortably rub and stretch the sore area. If your neck pain is caused by a chronic injury, it’s best to speak with a physical therapist to discuss treatment options. Learning a variety of exercises can help strengthen your muscles and ease the pain in your neck. You can also implement the above suggestions for choosing the right pillow and sleeping in a proper position to promote support in the neck and a good night’s sleep.
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