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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 – without addictive drugs or invasive surgeries.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

12 Causes of Lower Right Back Pain (And How to Relieve It)

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12 Causes of Lower Right Back Pain (And How to Relieve It)

Lower right back pain can be hard to shake. Even mild back pain can damper your energy levels and take away your focus at work. If you’re experiencing lower right back pain, it’s time to get to the bottom of your back pain.

Don’t write off your pain as simply a bad night’s rest. You deserve to know the cause of your lower right back pain – and how to relieve it.

Luckily, most cases of lower right back pain are a result of musculoskeletal issues and not an urgent medical crisis. Of course, that doesn’t make your back pain any less serious. Whatever the cause, you’ll need to treat your condition to get better, even if that means self-care remedies that you can easily find at home.

Lower right back pain should be taken seriously: it’s often a sign that some area of your body is out of balance. And with everything going on in your life, back pain is the last thing you need.

Today, we’ll look at common causes of lower right back pain and how to relieve it. Let’s get your back on track, so that you can feel great again.

Urgent Lower Right Back Pain Symptoms

Before we get started on common causes of lower right back pain, let’s look briefly at urgent symptoms to watch out for.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you should go to the emergency room to rule out urgent conditions.

  • Intense pain that’s sudden or sharp
  • Intense pain coupled with fever, nausea, vomiting or incontinence
  • Intense pain coupled with swelling or feelings of fullness
  • Intense pain coupled with urinary symptoms

These symptoms could be signs of urgent conditions such as appendicitis, kidney infections, kidney stones or endometriosis. Don’t take any chances and see a doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.

Common Causes of Lower Right Back Pain

Now, let’s turn to common musculoskeletal causes of lower right back pain. By learning more about these causes, you’ll be better prepared to get quick pain relief.

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1. Sprains and Strains

Sprains and strains are the number one cause of lower right back pain.

What’s the difference between a sprain and a strain? In essence, they are similar injuries. Sprains happen when you overextend or tear ligaments (tissues connecting joints); strains happen when you tear muscles or tendons (tissues connecting muscles). Typically, you’ll feel swelling, stiffness, bruising, cramping and/or spasms in your lower right back.

You usually know when you have a sprain or strain because you did something to trigger it. This could be an everyday activity, such as a sports injury, lifting something heavy, household falls or overexercising. Any sudden movements, or unnatural twisting and turning can also injure your muscles.

While both sprains and strains can heal on their own, you can help speed up the recovery process. Generally, the R.I.C.E. formula is recommended, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.[1] The idea is to limit the use of your back muscles, ice them and apply any compression bandages. By following this formula, your lower right back should feel better in no time.

Since back sprains and strains often recur, you should also consider stretching and strengthening exercises to prevent re-injury. Building up your back muscles, following warm-up or cool-down exercises and learning proper form and posture can also boost your back and prevent it from becoming chronic pain.

2. Disc Degeneration

While a natural part of the aging process, disc degeneration can also cause lower right back pain. Disc degeneration happens when the discs that hold up the vertebrae start to decay. With this wear-and-tear, the vertebrae have less protection and begin to rub together painfully.

Getting relief from disc degeneration can be tricky, because there’s no cure for this natural decay. Sometimes doctors will recommend physical therapy, massage therapy or chiropractic for possible benefits by changing your posture and movements, as well as using adjustments and the therapeutic touch for pain relief.[2]

In extreme cases, you may even consider steroid injections or surgery. However, most people with disc degeneration will focus on getting relief at home.

3. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is another aging condition that can cause lower right back pain. As the most common arthritis condition, osteoarthritis occurs when the cushion on your joints wears down with age, especially for commonly used joints, such as your spine, knees and hips.

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Specific symptoms of osteoarthritis involve stiffness, swelling, tenderness and loss of range of motion. Since the damage of osteoarthritis can’t be reversed, treatment usually focuses on physical therapy and lifestyle changes, including low-impact exercise and weight loss. Home remedies such as hot and cold packs and supplements are also effective.

4. Herniated Disc

A herniated disc may also be the cause of your lower right back pain. When the spine is working correctly, discs cushion and protect the spine. According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, a disc is like a jelly donut. When a herniated disc occurs, the jelly inside is pushed outside of its case.[3] This material then makes contact with nerves, causing pain, numbness and tingling.

Treatment for this condition can be as simple as physical therapy and pain relievers, or as complex as surgery. In any case, lifestyle changes can help with pain relief, including regular low-impact exercise such as yoga, weight loss, massage therapy and home remedies.

5. Muscular Imbalance

At times, lower right back pain can be hard to pinpoint, especially if you don’t remember an initial injury or movement that caused it. However, the way you move and exercise can impact your back pain. Specifically, muscular imbalance is an extremely common source of lower right back pain.

Muscular imbalance occurs when the natural balance of your muscular system is disrupted. This typically happens when you use certain muscles more than others, or do physical activity in an unnatural position.

For example, if your abdominal muscles are weak, your lower back will take the load, creating a muscular imbalance that may cause you pain. In athletes, this a common problem when you use certain muscle groups for sports, leaving others unfit or unused. Muscular imbalance can cause pain spots, such as in the lower right back.

Muscular imbalance is best treated by a physical therapist or chiropractor who can identify the imbalance among the muscle groups and create exercises for boosting weak areas. In the meantime, home remedies are a good way to stay pain-free.

6. Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis can cause serious lower right back pain. This condition occurs when the spaces in between your spine narrow, which puts excess pressure on your nerves.

Imagine your spine contracting or “crunching” together. Symptoms include lower right back pain, as well as numbness and weakness. Sometimes spinal stenosis is a secondary symptom of osteoarthritis too.

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The treatment of spinal stenosis is lifestyle-based, including building up strength, flexibility and balance. For extreme cases, doctors may also recommend decompression treatment or surgery. However, many get pain relief from staying active, losing weight and using home pain relief remedies.

7. Sciatica

If you’re experiencing sharp pain on your lower right side, you may have sciatica. Your sciatic nerve runs from your lower back down your legs. If it becomes pinched, you may feel pain that spreads all along the nerve, including your lower back. Common symptoms of sciatica also include numbness and tingling.

The majority of sciatica cases are relieved by home treatment. Typically, physical therapists will recommend a stretching routine and regular low-impact exercise. Sometimes, steroid injections are also beneficial for pain relief, though most cases can be successfully minimized by home remedies.

8. Bone Spurs

Another possible cause of your back pain is bone spurs. As the name suggests, bone spurs occur when bones in your spine rub together painfully.

When your discs start to decay, bone spurs become more likely, as the cushioning is no longer there between the vertebrae. Bone spurs are difficult to prevent, but you can get pain relief from home remedies.

9. Spinal Infection

Though less common, a spinal infection can also cause lower right back pain. There are many different types of spinal infections, but the most frequent happen when bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus or Escherichia coli enter the spine via the bloodstream.[4] This bacteria then causes swelling and tenderness, and may also manifest as a fever, muscle spasms and lower right back pain.

A spinal infection should be treated as soon as possible before the bacteria causes irreparable damage. The biggest clue is a fever: if you have a high fever in addition to lower right back pain, be sure to see a doctor as soon as possible. Antibiotics will typically resolve the condition, or surgery in extreme cases.

10. Scoliosis

The back condition scoliosis is another culprit of lower right back pain. Scoliosis is when the back curves in an unnatural shape, usually a C or an S. This curvature then places undue pressure on certain areas of the back. A doctor or chiropractor can easily diagnose scoliosis by looking at X-rays of the spine. Other symptoms of scoliosis include other misalignments in the body, as well as muscular weakness or numbness.

A physical therapist is extremely important for mitigating scoliosis and trying to correct spinal curvature in young adults. Other lifestyle treatment options include using a brace, regular exercise, chiropractic adjustments and home remedies for pain relief.

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11. Joint Dysfunction

Joint dysfunction may also account for lower right back pain. Joint dysfunction can cause inflammation in and around the spine. Specifically, joint dysfunction occurs when the joint in question moves too much or too little, causing muscle tension and tenderness. This inflammation then affects the surrounding area, including the spine.

In the case of sacroiliac joint dysfunction, the sacroiliac joint that connects the hips and the lumbar spine becomes inflamed, which causes pain both in the lower back and legs. To get pain relief from joint dysfunction, you can get chiropractic adjustments, wear a brace or use home remedies to get rid of the pain.

12. Cauda Equina Syndrome

Cauda Equina Syndrome is a serious and urgent spinal condition that results from nerve endings of the Cauda Equina becoming compressed. When this happens, the patient may experience motor weakness or sensory loss, since these nerves are involved in these physical sensations.

Cauda Equina syndrome is considered a medical emergency. If you’re experiencing lower right back pain, in addition to motor weakness, bladder dysfunction or sensory abnormalities, you may have Cauda Equina syndrome.

Home Remedies for Lower Right Back Pain

Depending on the cause of your lower right back pain, home pain relief remedies may help. If you’re looking to improve your back pain today, you can try the following options. Sometimes these self-care options are a matter of trial and error. Be sure to find the remedy that works for you.

  • Hot and cold packs
  • Natural supplements, such as white willow bark, devil’s claw or capsaicin
  • Anti-inflammatory spices turmeric and ginger
  • Green tea
  • Essential oils, including peppermint and lavender
  • An anti-inflammatory diet, including lots of fruits, veggies, fish and olive oil
  • Regular low-impact exercise, including yoga or Tai Chi
  • Good posture habits
  • Hot herbal baths
  • Regular massage therapy and chiropractic
  • Healthy sleeping positions 

The Bottom Line

Remember that getting relief for your lower right back pain is up to you. It’s important to take the time to make sure you’re creating good back-friendly habits and finding ways to incorporate these home remedies in your day-to-day life.

If you’re not sure how to get started with recovering from back pain, you can also see a professional chiropractor, who will create a customized back pain plan to get your back condition resolved.

Whatever you decide, don’t just ignore your lower right back pain. It’s essential that you address the pain and find ways to overcome the condition and get pain relief. Don’t let your back pain take over your busy schedule – you’ve got better things to do!

Reference

[1] National Institute of Health: Sprains and Strains
[2] Better Health Chiropractic: 65 Proven Facts about Chiropractors and Chiropractic Care for Back Pain and Other Conditions
[3] Mayo Clinic: Herniated disk
[4] American Association of Neurological Surgeons: Spinal Infections

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