Why Your Neck Hurts After You Sleep Wrong And How To Fix It

When you wake up in the morning and your neck is sore, or if it hurts when you bend it a certain way, you know you probably slept in the wrong position at some point during the night. Sleeping wrong can cause your neck to hurt, but knowing why is an important part of helping prevent it from happening again. Neck pain from sleeping wrong is caused largely in part by the distribution of pressure on your neck muscles based on the alignment of your head and upper torso, and can often be helped with the right pillows and posture.

Why Your Neck Hurts

In most cases, your neck hurts because of the different muscles in your neck and how they've been working throughout the night. Your body is surprisingly adaptable, but in this case it works against your favor. When your neck is bent in one direction all night, some muscles are working while others are not in order to keep your head in place. This means that some muscles shorten and others lengthen to accommodate. So when you wake up and straighten your neck, you feel those shortened muscles being pulled back to their usual length.

For example, if you sleep on your side and your neck is bent a little to the right, the muscles in the right side of your neck will shorten because they don't have to reach as far. If they stay like this for a few hours, they will adjust comfortably to that position, and you will be uncomfortable and stiff when you try to straighten up.

Short-Term Fixes

There are a few things you can do for immediate or quick pain relief, and they can all be used together or by themselves as you need.

  • Take over-the-counter pain medication to help ease the pain while your muscles readjust. They may take a little while to kick in, but they will work faster than just letting the pain go away on its own.
  • Stretch your neck to help your muscles readjust. Tilt your head forward and back, then side to side. If it starts becoming painful, don't push it too far; just tilt your head until you feel a little pressure. As you continue, you may be able to tilt your head a little farther each time.
  • Dampen a towel with warm or hot water and place it over the painful areas. Heat helps soothe the pain, but moist heat is even more effective because it can be absorbed more easily.

Long-Term Fixes

The two best ways to help ease nighttime pain are to watch your sleeping posture and make sure you're using the right type of pillow.

The best way to sleep is flat on your back with your head resting comfortably on a pillow as you look straight up. You should not be leaning forward or back; your spine and neck should be straight. You can sleep on your side if you need to, though you may need a different type of pillow than if you were sleeping on your back.

Choose a pillow that helps keep your neck and spine straight. Memory foam pillows are good at this, but the size is more important than the material. If you sleep on your side, for example, choose a pillow that prevents your head from tilting up or down. You should also try to replace your pillows roughly once a year, as old pillows can lose their form and start to cause you pain.

For more tips on dealing with neck pain, contact a clinic such as Wasilla Physical Therapy.