Waking up with a stiff neck is definitely not a pleasant way to start your day. It can be painful, extremely inconvenient, and interfere with your daily routine and activities. With a stiff neck, even simple movements can be a little more difficult to do. In a lot of cases, strained neck muscles are a result of incorrect sleeping positions, but how could you have noticed the way you sleep when you are… well, asleep?
Fret not, although it might sound impossible to control how you sleep, there are some things you can do to minimize awkward sleeping positions! In addition to that, take a look at these main causes for a stiff neck and how to treat one.
Awkward sleeping positions
We all have our own preferred sleeping positions, but there are 3 main positions: back, side, and stomach. The position that is a total no-no is sleeping on your stomach! Why so? When you sleep on your stomach, your lower back will become strained, because your belly sinks into the bed, adding pressure on your spine. Your neck may also be twisted to one side for a long time, leading to strained neck muscles. Thus, in the morning, you will wake up feeling sore instead of feeling refreshed.
If you continue sleeping with this pattern for quite some time, your stiff neck problems may develop into something more serious, such as herniated disc or radiculopathy. Meanwhile, sleeping on the back may cause brief episodes of sleep apnea and some problems on the lower back as well, which is why professionals recommend sleeping on your side.
Choosing an appropriate pillow is crucial for a good quality of sleep. You need to make sure that your pillow can support your head and neck properly. A hard pillow might feel a tad uncomfortable, but oftentimes, neck problems are actually caused by a pillow that is too soft. Soft pillows cannot hold your head and neck properly like firm pillows do, creating tension in your neck muscles. When you use a firm pillow to sleep at night, it will help you in keeping your spine straight and aligned—from your atlas (located in the neck) to your tailbone, posing less of a risk to having a stiff neck. Using a feather pillow or pillows made with “memory foam” is recommended because they can conform with the shape of your head and neck, but make sure to change your pillow once they lose their firmness and shape.
Sudden movements during your sleep, especially when you’re dreaming, such as flinging your limbs, rolling over, tossing and turning may create tension in and sprain your neck muscles.
Now that you know the primary causes of a stiff neck, what should you do when you experience it one morning? Should you just accept it and go on with your day with discomfort and pain? Absolutely not! Here are some simple, easy, and fairly quick ways to deal with a strained neck.
Ice or heat therapy
When you wake up with a stiff neck, put some ice on it for about 20 minutes to limit the swelling and cut down on inflammation. If the pain lingers until the next day, try replacing ice with heat (perhaps by using a warm towel or a heating pad). Put it on your strained neck for 20 minutes as well. Heat is known to relax your muscles and improve blood flow, which may reduce the pain and increase your neck’s range of motion.
Stretching and massage
Massaging the sore area of your neck gently can also help relax the muscles and increase blood flow, gradually improving your flexibility. However, you need to be careful to not overdo it and make it worse. Other than massaging, doing some stretching will help with your stiff neck, too.
Some stretching techniques that you can do:
Touch your right ear to your right shoulder and push the left side of your head gently for 10 seconds. Do the same with your left ear and left shoulder. Repeat these movements for 10 repetitions per side.
Slowly turn your head to the left until you feel a slight stretch (it’s alright if you cannot turn too far due to the strain) while standing with your neck and your back straight. Hold it for 10 seconds, then turn to the right and do the same thing. Repeat for 4-5 times per side. This is to increase your flexibility little by little without causing more pain.
Stand up straight, look up to the ceiling as far as you can, hold it for 10 seconds and come back to the starting position. Next, look down to the ground as far as you can (while still standing straight) and hold it for 10 seconds as well. Do 10 repetitions for each up and down movement.
Another thing that you can do to manage a stiff neck, especially if it’s getting worse, is to visit Hope Clinic and get appropriate treatment. Located in Scottsdale, AZ, you can get non-invasive and non-opioid treatment for your injuries. With an over 93% success rate, Hope Clinic offers excellent treatment procedures that are 100% drug-free!