Waking Up With A Stiff Neck: Brighton Chiropractor On How To Find Relief

No one wants to start their day with a stiff neck. Here you can learn about what’s likely to be causing your neck pain, as well as how to prevent it in the future. 

Waking up with a stiff neck, Brighton chiropractor

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What causes a stiff neck while sleeping? 

Almost everyone has experienced the mishap of ‘sleeping funny’ and waking up with a sore neck. This is often referred to as ‘acute torticollis’ (not a Harry Potter spell), also known as ‘wry neck’. This happens when the neck muscles go into spasm on one side, often happening over the course of a night. This can cause severe pain on one side of the neck and often tilts it in the direction of the spasm. It might be difficult to straighten your neck due to the pain. 

Acute torticollis is the most common cause of neck pain in young people, but it affects people of all ages. It’s also worth noting that during sleep, blood flow to the neck decreases, making it more likely that your muscles will stiffen up. 

It’s difficult to control what happens when we sleep, but there are measures you can take to stop waking up with a stiff neck. 

So how can you relieve a stiff neck? 

Acute torticollis almost always arises from your sleeping position. It may seem contradictory that the body is able to remain in a position that causes so much discomfort, but it’s you can fall asleep in ways that are harmful to your neck. Sleeping on your stomach, for example, forces your head to turn to one side, which twists the neck muscles and inhibits movement in your spine. Sleeping on your side or your back puts less pressure on your spine and neck. If this feels unnatural to you, try transitioning to this position over the course of a few nights. 

Your pillow may also be to blame. If it’s too soft or too low, it may not be giving your head the support it needs, which puts extra pressure on your neck. It’s worth doing the ‘pillow test’ to find out if this is the issue – bend your pillow inwards and quickly let go. If it opens quickly, chances are that the pillow is not firm enough to support your head. 

How we spend our day can make a big difference to how we sleep. If you spend most of your day sitting down at the computer, you’re more likely to suffer from neck pain. If you would like to know how you can adjust your working environment to prevent neck and back pain, you can read our blog post all about it, How To Beat The Sitting Epidemic

If your muscles are tight after a busy day, try these exercises before bed to prevent waking up with a stiff neck. 

  • Roll your shoulders 10 times, alternating backwards and forwards. 
  • Bring your ear to your shoulder 10 times, left to right in gentle motions.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together 10 times. 

Acute torticollis is a common problem that often resolves itself in a few days. However, if you’re suffering from frequent bouts of neck pain brought on after a night’s sleep, book in with one of our chiropractors for a personalised treatment plan. We’re always happy to help.