Why your neck hurts when you wake up (and how to fix it)
If you’re reading this article, then you probably know exactly what morning neck pain feels like. In fact, research shows that around 5% of new cases of chronic pain may be related to sleeping problems. So why do we wake up with pain? Is it our fault for sleeping in an odd position or can other factors be at play?
Read on for a list of reasons why your neck hurts when you wake up in the morning and real solutions for fixing them.
Reason #1: Your Pillow Is Too Old
Your pillow is one of the last things you think about replacing. For one thing, it’s always there. It’s like a constant companion. Why would you think about replacing it? It’s broken in and comfortable, like a well-worn CD (if you still remember what those are).
But here’s the unhappy truth: the fact that it’s broken in and comfortable might be the reason for your neck pain. Your neck could be hurting when you wake up because the pillow you’re sleeping on is too lumpy or too thin. It’s worn down by all those nights of scrunching it up, using it as a weapon during pillow fights, and tossing and turning on it. It’s no longer supporting your neck when you sleep. It’s just too worn out.
Solution: Buy A New Pillow or Try Changing Your Sleeping Position
It might be time to say goodbye to that old pillow that you love. Your neck will thank you when you wake up pain free because you slept on a pillow that actually supports you. A memory foam or a latex pillow may provide the support you need as they conform to the shape of your head and neck. However, if you’ve already tried this and you still wake up in pain then try these tips:
- If you usually sleep on your stomach you may find your neck in an overextended position when you wake up. Instead, try sleeping on your side or back instead.
- If you already sleep on your side, try putting a pillow between your legs. This can help keep your neck aligned with the rest of your spine. You can also try hugging a second pillow while on your side.
- When sleeping, make sure your head is in the middle of the pillow so that your neck is supported as well.
- Avoid using a pillow that is too stiff or too deep. Again, this can cause your neck to overextend or flex as you sleep.
Reason #2: Your Mattress Has Broken Down
If this has happened then you’re probably already aware of it. It’s hard to deny it when your mattress just doesn’t feel right anymore. It dips in all the wrong places, it may have springs that are loose or missing, and it just doesn’t support or contour to your body like it used to. A broken-down mattress will not only cause pain in your neck, but your shoulders, back, arms, legs… the list goes on.
Solution: Buy a Medium-Firm Mattress
Mattresses are built to last about 5-8 years, and if it’s been that long since you last bought one, then it’s probably time to go shopping. Most online furniture stores have a return policy so that if you decide you don’t like the mattress you ordered, you can simply send it back and get a different one. Here are some tips when choosing a mattress:
- Many people make the assumption that the firmer the mattress is, the better it will be at alleviating back and neck pain, but this isn’t always the case. A medium-firm mattress is usually best.
- A super soft mattress will cause parts of your body to sink into the bed, resulting in your spine being misaligned and your neck resting at an unnatural angle.
- If your mattress has broken springs or is sagging in the middle, try a latex, memory foam or even a hybrid mattress that doesn’t lose its shape over time or break in certain areas.
Remember, Your neck as well as your entire body will wake up pain free again if your mattress is supportive yet comfortable, and not broken down.
Reason #3: You Don’t Have Enough Space To Sleep
If you have to do gymnastics in bed to sleep around your pet or partner, then it’s no wonder you’re experiencing neck pain. Sometimes in order to make the one we love more comfortable, we sleep in positions that don’t do our neck any justice. Our pet or partner might wake up comfortable and refreshed, but we just wake up in pain.
Solution: Shut Out Your Pet, Talk To Your Partner, And Maybe Purchase A Bigger Bed
It might not be easy, but sometimes it’s necessary for our own wellbeing to make changes in the bedroom. These changes might include shutting your pet out of the bedroom before you go to sleep or talking to your partner about not hogging the whole bed. It may even benefit both of you if you purchase a bigger bed, especially if your partner is larger than you are or vice versa. The bed may simply not be big enough to accommodate the both of you. And your cat. And your other cat. And your dog.
Reason #4: There’s Another Reason For Your Neck Pain
There are certainly other causes that can be contributing to your neck stiffness. Your activities during the day and general health can also be a major factor. Some of these factors include:
- Poor posture during the day, especially if you work In front of a computer
- Cervical Spondylosis – Age related wear and tear of the spinal bones in your neck.
- Nerve compression caused by a herniated disk or bone spur in your neck
Solution: Speak to your Doctor!
Neck pain is not something that you should have to suffer in silence with. If you have tried to remedy the pain yourself but it still persists, then it’s time to speak to a doctor. This is especially true if you are experiencing tingling or weakness in your arms or legs. You may be referred for an Xray or an MRI scan to determine the cause of your neck pain. Your doctor can also provide you with medication that you can take at night to help ease the pain depending on what's causing it. In the meantime however, there are some home remedies you can try:
- Use a bag of frozen peas or wrap a few cubes of ice in a small towel and apply to your neck for 10 - 20 minutes at a time. Don’t ever put ice directly onto the skin as it can cause frostbite. This can help reduce the inflammation in your neck.
- Try over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol
- Do some gentle exercises for your neck such as the ones found here. However, it would be wise to consult your doctor first beforehand as you don’t want to make the pain worse.
- Don’t stop moving altogether as this can promote neck stiffness.
Conclusion - Don't Sleep On Neck Pain!
Neck pain is a problem that you may be used to, but the truth is you shouldn’t have to live with it. Not only that, but the reasons your neck is sore when you wake up may be easy to fix. We hope the solutions listed in this article help you sleep more soundly and wake up completely pain free.