“Ouch! What is happening inside my cervical spine to cause me such pain!?”
These may not be the words that run through your mind as you wake and wince in pain.
However, it may be one or more of the nerves in your cervical spine that is alerting you that something is not as it should be. Whether your neck pain from sleeping has become consistent or is just a fluke, we can help you get your day back on track – and help you prevent neck pain in the future.
So, you know you must get out of bed and deal with the pain that overtakes your free thinking. How can you proceed with taking care of the kids, work, and the requirements of life if you simply cannot turn your neck properly?
In a moment, we will provide you with a few tips to help prevent neck pain while sleeping. You can pick a few options to help your create lasting habits for sleeping without neck pain.
First, let’s talk about what you can do to help alleviate your neck pain once it has begun. That can make all the difference in how your day goes!
Read along with us!
Get Your Day Back on Track in Spite of Neck Pain
So you woke up and immediately realized that pain has settled in between your shoulders and head. Now what? Unfinished tasks fill your mind as you work through which directions you can move without wincing.
Try these quick fixes to get your day back on track – today.
1. Review your exit strategy from the bed
As your brain alerts you that a new day is approaching, your body may still be in sleep mode. You do not want to add to your neck pain simply by straining to get out of bed.
Do this instead: Turn onto your side facing the edge of your bed. Rest your elbow that is closest to the edge of the bed onto the bed. Place your palms together in front of you, and push them together as you push yourself into a sitting position.
You should be pushing into your elbow that is near the edge of the bed as you push your palms together. This will help you to remove neck muscles from the equation as you get out of bed.
2. Take a hot shower
Let the warm water cascade across your neck muscles helping to loosen, awaken, and calm them. Choose your favorite essential oil and place a few drops in a warm bath or next to you on a cloth in the shower.
Drops of oil need to be placed on something absorbent so they do not simply wash down the drain with the water.
3. Notice which movements hurt and which ones do not
Use this information to help make sleeping choices as shown in the information below regarding preventing pain. Be sure to avoid jerky movements until your pain has gone away.
4. Plan the first portion of your day in a way that allows your body to ‘warm up’ a bit prior to lots of movement.
Yes, this may mean that you need to adjust your intended schedule. However, it may also help you keep pain from increasing as the day progresses.
5. Rule out sinus trouble and other breathing problems
Work to treat any related conditions that may have contributed to an awkward sleeping position.
If you are not able to breathe well as you sleep, you are much more likely to end up in an awkward position as your body tries to compensate.
For the more immediate, you are more likely to retain tension if you are not able breathe efficiently throughout the day.
6. Complete a few gentle neck stretches
Slowly stretching neck muscles can help to alleviate undue stress and remind the vertebrae that it is okay to move.
Four helpful neck stretches include the side-to-side strengtheners, side tilts, chin tucks, and shoulder circles.
Take your time allowing your muscles to loosen slowly. Do not try to force your neck in any direction.
7. Choose a warm compress to place on your neck
These are some nice warm compresses you can try:
- Epsom salts mixed with warm water
- Apple cider vinegar
- Tap water (but not too hot to the touch)
- Peppermint, wintergreen, or your favorite essential oil on a warm cloth
8. Get a chiropractic massage
This type of focused massage helps to identify and treat conditions that may have developed in the vertebrae causing pain.
Chiropractic massage is a practical way to alleviate immediate pain while having a chance to learn more about any possible pain conditions. Unhappy nerves, muscles, and joints can be given specialized attention through chiropractic massage techniques.
9. Consider if an over-the-counter pain medicine will help get your day started
If you are having to think about this option with any regularity, make sure that you do not have an injury that needs chiropractic attention.
This may seem obvious. However, when pain starts, we sometimes tense up in hopes of avoiding further pain. In turn, we only cause muscles and joints to retain unnecessary stress. This can easily cause pain to increase.
So, kick back and breathe in some fresh air slowly and deliberately. Relax each portion of your body one portion at a time. This helps reintroduce a sense of calm into your neck and spine and helps reduce physical tension.
Still not confident you will be able to sleep comfortably tonight? Let’s look at some options to help you enjoy dreamland again!
Get Your Day Started Right the Night Before
Remember when we mentioned finding out which movements hurt and which ones do not? If your neck hurts shortly after – or as you are waking – reconsider how your body may have moved as you slept.
You may also experience pain through one or both shoulder blades or up through the back of your head. Your neck, shoulders, back, and legs should stay aligned as you sleep. If your head dips in a way that stretches one side of your body more than the other, this creates undue stress on your neuromuscular system.
Pain may not sound like a desired result of a (less than healthy) sleeping position. However, it can actually serve as your friend. A ‘crick in the neck’ can act as an alert that your body was not able to rest in a position that is safe for your muscles and nerves. If continued or repeated, more serious conditions can develop within your spine.
Check out these tips to prevent neck pain from sleeping.
1. Plan to alter your position safely
Have multiple comfortable positions ready to trade out when you wake up in the middle of the night. This simple concept can make a powerful difference.
We are seldom in a mood to reconfigure the bed at 2:00 pm. Why not just plan for this and be ready to switch gears more easily?
2. Choose your pillow wisely
You should be able to envision a line from head to toe that is reasonably straight.
If you sleep on your side, you will likely need a bit more support from your pillow. If the top of your head dips below your spinal column, you need more pillow support to raise it level with your spine.
This guide will help you choose a suitable pillow for yourself:
3. Ensure that your mattress or sleeping surface fits you
Your mattress or sleeping surface should fit your preferred sleeping position, body type, and the human spine. Your knees, hips, neck, and the top of your head should be reasonably level with each other throughout the night. When it is time to shift positions, ensure that the top of your head does not dip causing your neck to arch in either direction.
Here’s the essential guide to pick your best mattress:
4. Check your overnight breathing habits
If you are attempting to sleep in an elevated position to improve breathing, ensure that your head cannot wobble around as you rest.
If you are using a CPAP machine or other breathing apparatus as you sleep, ensure that its positioning is not causing you to arch your neck during the night.
5. Ask someone to help take note of how your sleep
Have a family member try to help you take note of how your body is positioned as you sleep. Maybe have your spouse make a habit of looking at you if they get up once in the night. (Chances are if you are not sleeping well, they may have noticed anyway.)
6. Speak with your chiropractor for personalized information regarding your physical make-up
Chiropractic adjustments work to identify, treat, and prevent pain conditions in the spinal column.
If you have injuries to the head, neck, shoulders, or upper back, you will need to take those into consideration. Your neck pain from sleeping may have developed as a result of compensating for separate underlying condition that can be treated.
7. Consider how you position yourself if you read in bed prior to going to sleep
Ensure that your eyes are able to look directly at your reading material without straining. If you must strain your eyes to see, it is likely that your neck will also become strained in the process.
Putting your neck in a slightly awkward position just before sleeping does not give your body time to adjust properly. Your neck should stay aligned as you read and not become pressed forward by a headboard or other items behind your head.
8. Ensure any time that you spend digitally is enjoyed in a neck friendly position
Unfortunately, resting in bed while strolling through forgotten communications and news reports does not always lend well to neck health. Whether sitting or lying down, make sure that your neck is aligned with the remainder of your spine.
Be mindful that holding devices for the purpose of scrolling can also make you more susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome and other wrist and hand pain problems.
9. Actually sleep in a neck-friendly position
You likely know that it is not a good idea to sleep with your neck arched to one side. Cognitively deciding to sleep with your neck properly supported throughout the night helps your brain to alert you if your position changes as you sleep.
Ensure that the sleep positions that you do choose allow you to actually stay that way or easily swap to another safe position when desired.
10. Rethink your alarm settings before you sleep
It may be desirable to set an alarm for a few minutes earlier to allow you to start your day with a sense of calm. If your alarm causes you to become startled as you wake, this jarring motion can increase pain that may have begun overnight.
If your pain has been present for some time, you may have more than just neck pain.
Your neck pain may have originated through an injury and become worse through your sleeping position. Be sure to inquire with your local chiropractor regarding long-term neck care options.
Getting On With Your Day Pain-Free
You may have started out in a neck-friendly sleeping position only to wake up contorted and uncomfortable. No matter how you acquired your neck pain while snoozed out, you can turn your questionable day of pain into something desirable.
Take these tips and quick fixes with you today as you seek to leave behind your neck pain and discomfort. Write yourself a note or two to remind you which sleeping tips you would like to try tonight to help prevent neck pain from increasing or returning overnight.
Pick a few neck pain prevention techniques each evening. Find out which ones have the most impact on your personal sleeping situation. Rest well with your new regime of sleep without neck pain!
More Resources about Neck Pain
Featured photo credit: Jesper Aggergaard via unsplash.com