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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

How to Prevent Neck Pain from Sleeping (And Quick Fixes to Help You)

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How to Prevent Neck Pain from Sleeping (And Quick Fixes to Help You)

“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.

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2. Take a hot shower

Let the warm water cascade across your neck muscles helping to loosen, awaken, and calm them.[1] 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.[2]

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.[3]

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.[4]

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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.

10. Relax

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.

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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:

10 Best Pillows To Choose For A Good Night Sleep

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.[5] 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:

Your Essential Guide To Buying The Right 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[6] 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.

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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

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Featured photo credit: Jesper Aggergaard via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Encyclopædia Britannica: Why Does Heat Relax Your Muscles?
[2] National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association: 10 Tips to Overcome Morning Stiffness
[3] Better Health: 5 Stretches to Ease Your Neck Pain
[4] Everyday Health: Chiropractic Care for Neck Pain
[5] University of Rochester Medical Center Health Encyclopedia: Good Sleeping Posture Helps Your Back
[6] National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: CPAP

More by this author

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

Chiropractic doctor currently leading over 10,000 Alaskans to more active, pain-free lifestyles โ€“ without addictive drugs or invasive surgeries.

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Published on December 22, 2021

9 Simple Exercises To Fix Your Bad Neck Posture

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9 Simple Exercises To Fix Your Bad Neck Posture

Poor neck posture can put a lot of strain on the muscles, ligaments, and joints of your neck, causing some kind of discomfort that is vaguely described as Tension Neck Syndrome. Quite common, this is usually a dull pain felt around where the neck and the shoulders meet, around the arm.

Sometimes, it also presents other symptoms, such as tension headaches and anxiety. Are you experiencing any of these? Then you might be suffering from the effects of bad neck posture. Below are nine simple exercises that should help you fix your bad neck posture and offer quick relief.

1. Chin Tucks

This is a simple yet effective exercise able to relieve tension from bad neck posture. It targets the deeper muscles of your neck and releases the built-up pressure on them.

To perform this exercise, all you need to do is sit erect and look right ahead. Now, place a finger, preferably your index finger, on your chin.

Holding this finger in place, you should begin pulling your head back until you feel some stretching around your neck. Remain in the position you felt the stretch for a couple of seconds. Let’s say, ten to fifteen seconds.

Now, move your head and chin forward until your chin is in contact with your finger again. Repeat the process as many times as you can.[1]

2. Shoulder Shrugs

Shoulder shrugs are another effective exercise to help with a neck strain. They are simple to perform and can be performed at home, with or without weights. This exercise works on a muscle called the trapezius muscle.

As the name suggests, this trapezius muscle is a trapezoid muscle around the back of your neck and your upper back. It is usually the most frequently affected muscle in cases of bad neck posture and must be eased for relief to be felt.

To perform shoulder shrugs, you have got to stand erect, looking right ahead. Your feet must be flat on the ground. They should not be arched, and you should not be putting on any heels.

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Place your arms beside you, your palms facing your body if you’re performing without weights. If you are performing the exercise with weights, you should have your weights in your hands. Now, lower your knees a bit, and your feet should not move.

Pull in a deep breath as you raise your shoulders high as if trying to make your shoulders meet your ears. Don’t raise your shoulders too fast. Raise slowly in such a way that you feel some form of anti-pressure.

Begin lowering your shoulders, slowly too, as you exhale. Repeat over and over.

3. Head Tilt

This simple yet effective exercise primarily targets your deltoid muscles, also affecting the synergistic muscles of your neck and upper back. The deltoid muscle is one of the muscles affected by bad neck posture and has to be eased if relief must be felt.

You do not need equipment to perform head tilts. It can easily be performed at home and by anyone.

To perform head tilts, you should stand erect, your feet two to three feet apart. It is important that your feet are apart from each other.

Now, move your head from one side to the other. The movement should be done in such a way that it seems like you are trying to touch your shoulders with your ears. Repeat the movements as many times as you want.[2]

4. Nods

Nodding is an effective way to relieve neck tension as it targets deep neck muscles, which are often the center of neck discomfort. As funny as this sounds, it is true. So, how do you go about performing this exercise? Do you just sit there and nod your way into relief? Pretty much yes.

To perform this exercise, all you have got to do is sit erect, looking right ahead. Move your chin downward, as if you’re nodding, only this time you should lower your chin until it is almost touching your chest area.

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Repeat over and over until you feel you have had enough. Rest, and go on. Relief should come real quick!

5. Child’s Pose

This exercise is quite easy to perform and works very effectively. It targets your upper body muscles; as you stretch, these muscles relax, the tension on them easing up.

To perform the child’s pose, you have got to first sit. Have you seen a child sitting before? You have got to kneel and sit just like that. Sit with your legs folded, your toes teaching each other, your butt atop your heels. Your knees should not be in contact. They should be about one foot or two feet away from each other.

Now, fall forward, your arms outstretched, your forehead touching the ground. It’s fine if your arms are not outstretched, though. You can just keep them in place beside you as long as they don’t move and you don’t break the pose. Remain in this position for some minutes, practicing breathing exercises as you relax.[3]

6. Prone Cobra

This exercise effectively strengthens the muscles of the shoulder joint, neck muscles, and upper back muscles. It is a simple exercise to perform yet advanced in action.

To perform the prone cobra, you should lie on your belly, face down, forehead touching the ground. Put your arms beside you, your palms on the floor. Press the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth.

Now, slowly, try to make your shoulder blades meet each other. Your shoulder blades are also called your scapulae, bones that attach your upper body to the back.

Take your hands off the ground. With your palms facing outside, roll your elbows inward and do a thumbs up. Now, lift your forehead a few inches above the ground. Maintain the position for about ten to fifteen minutes. Repeat.

So that your forehead does not sustain scratches, you might want to put a towel on the ground. You should also be careful not to stretch too hard. [4]

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7. The YTWL Exercise

This is a simple-to-perform exercise that aims to work the spine muscles. It stretches tight spine muscles while straightening out the weak muscles. To perform this exercise, you do not need equipment. It can easily be done at home or the office.

Raise your arms and form a letter ‘Y’ with your palms pointing forward. Now, pull your arms back while making sure your elbows are kept straight. Hold still for about 30 seconds.

You should now go into the ‘W’ position. To do this, pull your arms down just a little bit, making sure your elbows are pointing down. Hold for another 30 seconds.

After this, spread your arms in such a way that you are doing a ‘T’ with your palms facing forward. Put your arms back again and hold for 30 seconds.

Then, go down to form an L with the elbows in the side and fingers pointing in opposite directions. Pull your forearms back and hold out for another 30 seconds.

8. Pectoralis Stretch

This exercise is great for the muscles of your shoulder and your upper back. It’s quite simple to perform and can easily be done at home. To perform this exercise, you only need two things: yourself and a doorway.

Move into the doorway and put your forearms across the doorframe, one forearm on one side and the other forearm the other way. Your elbows should be bent. They should look something like a right angle, which is ninety degrees.

Release the weight of your body so that your body falls forward just a bit, and you start to feel some stretching around your chest and shoulders.

Hold for a couple of seconds, between ten and twenty seconds, and then release. Repeat the procedure several times. Relief comes quite fast.

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9. Overhead Arm Reach

This simple exercise targets both the deep and superficial muscles of the neck and works on other muscles of the upper back, arm, and torso. You only need a chair to perform this exercise.

To do the overhead arm reach, you should sit on a chair with both your feet touching the ground. Your feet should not be arched. They should be flat.

Now, raise your right arm above your head, reaching to the left side of your body. Bend your torso until you feel some stretching.

Return to how you started. Repeat this exercise about five times, changing between left and right arms.

Bottom Line

Discomfort from bad neck posture is common, especially among office workers who sit all day. This is a result of strained muscles, ligaments, and joints. Discomfort from bad neck posture can range from dull pain to tension headaches to even anxiety and sleep trouble.

Exercises are a known way to relieve neck tension from bad neck posture. If done right and consistently, relief comes fast. Be careful not to go too far with these exercises. Never stretch your muscles too much.

Featured photo credit: Keenan Constance via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Spine Health: Easy Chin Tucks for Neck Pain
[2] Drugs.com: Neck Exercises
[3] Whatsdalatest: Ten Text Neck Pain Home Remedies For Quick Relief
[4] Exercise.com: Prone Cobra

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