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I Woke Up With Neck Pain. What Should I Do?

Neck Pain

So, you’ve woken up with a sore neck and are now wondering what you can do to get rid of that pain. Sometimes this can occur from awkward sleeping positions, and sometimes the cause is unknown. There are many factors that contribute to someone waking up with neck pain.  

When your neck is painful, certain movements may aggravate your pain, hindering you from engaging in important daily activities, such as going to work or even completing simple tasks around the house.

This guide explores some of the common causes of neck pain and what you can do to alleviate it. You’ll also learn how to adjust your sleeping habits so you can prevent neck pain in the future. 

How Sleeping Causes Neck and Shoulder Pain

Simply put, everyone is uniquely different from one another and as such, our needs are also different. Some require a firm mattress, and some require a softer mattress. Unfortunately, there is no good evidence to support which type of mattress is superior to prevent aches and pains. What we can say is that if your mattress is very old (10+ years) you should consider changing it as the material may be worn out, and the mattress may not be very supportive. 

When it comes to pillows, some people may require a stiffer pillow that provides support for the curvature of the neck. It is also important to take into consideration the age of your pillow. Over time, your pillow can lose support and can interfere with a restful and painless night’s sleep. 

The good news is that neck pain from sleeping improperly can be significantly improved with a few steps.

  1. Sleeping Position

We know that your sleep position can play an important role in neck health. Sleeping on your stomach may aggravate the neck due to being in prolonged positions of rotation which can contribute to that stiff feeling you have in your neck muscles in the morning. The problem is that when we fall asleep, we become unaware of our sleeping positions and unless the discomfort is painful enough to wake you up from bed, you may remain in that position for a prolonged period of time, leading to pain and stiffness. Choosing positions on your back or on your side can help with keeping your neck aligned with the rest of your spine.

  1. Unsupportive Pillow 

Whether your pillow is too soft or too firm, the type of pillow you sleep on may contribute to neck pain and stiffness. Most people have certain sleep positions that they find comfortable. 

  1. Previous Injury 

Previous neck pain injuries such as whiplash, neck strains, and sports injuries are some underlying conditions that can become aggravated from certain sleeping positions. These injuries could leave you feeling stiff and sore upon waking up in the morning.  

  1. Posture

For those that work at a desk and are constantly on the computer, postural muscles can become strained creating tension and pain. When this is present for long periods of time, pain can increase and sometimes lead to tension-related headaches. 

Strategies to improve neck pain after sleeping in a poor position

If you’re wondering how to get rid of neck pain from sleeping wrong, we’ve got some tips for you. When you wake up with a stiff neck, consider the following remedies to alleviate your pain: 

  1. Stretching 

Doing some stretches or self-massage can help alleviate your pain temporarily by loosening tight muscles. There are many simple mobility exercises and stretches that can be done first thing in the morning and repeated multiple times per day. 

  1. Exercise 

Cardiovascular or resistance type exercises can improve neck pain by increasing blood flow to the whole body and increased strength and endurance of  your muscles. You may find that certain exercises actually reduce your neck stiffness and can be done throughout the day for continual relief. 

  1. Ice or Heat Therapy

Depending on the reason for your pain, the application of heat or ice may be helpful in managing what you feel. If your muscles are sore, heat can help bring blood flow to the affected area and relax the muscles. If there has been an injury, sometimes ice can help reduce the pain. You can apply heat or ice to the affected area for 10 minutes at a time. 

  1. Manual Therapy treatment

Having a comprehensive assessment to understand why you have pain and developing a plan of action to treat your muscles and joints can be a very effective strategy for relief. Various treatments such as massage therapy, acupuncture, spinal adjustments, and spinal mobilizations can speed up recovery, combined with an active exercise plan to get you feeling much better.

At the Pain and Wellness Centre, our skilled Chiropractic doctors can help you understand what is creating your pain and treat you effectively to get you back to activities you love. 

  1. Medication

On rare occasions, your neck pain may be severe, and the motion of your neck may be very limited, making your daily activities very challenging. Please talk to your doctor about the use of over-the-counter medication. This may help in reducing inflammation and relaxing your muscles. 

Preventive Measures to Avoid Neck Pain from Sleeping Wrong

  1. Resistance training and Mobility exercises

It is important to engage in regular physical activity for the reasons listed above. Developing muscular endurance in the areas of the neck, upper back, and shoulders can create resilience in your muscles and can be very protective for long-term pain relief. 

It is also important to explore various ranges of motion within your joints. These movements are known as Mobility exercises which are defined as a range of unrestricted motion around a joint. When we explore different ranges of motion with various joints in our body frequently, our joints and muscles start to adapt and our ability to perform these movements gets easier. The combination of mobility and resistance exercises are essential for pain relief and to prevent future neck pain. 

  1. Adjust Your Sleeping Position

Everyone’s ideal sleeping position is different. Most health experts recommend that sleeping on your back or side is ideal for reducing stress on the cervical spine

It is very important to ensure that your neck is in alignment with your spine when lying on a pillow especially when you have neck pain. This holds true when sleeping on your side or back. 

If you are a side sleeper, make sure to choose a pillow that supports your neck and does not deform enough to make your neck slant to one side or another. 

If you are a back sleeper, ensure that the pillow supports the spinal curvature of your neck. Sometimes pillows are too thin or too thick and may put your neck into excessive extension or flexion. 


Sleeping in the wrong position has the potential to make you feel pain in the morning. To avoid the problem, understand the causes and consider the preventive and effective methods addressed above. 

If this has been something you have been dealing with and want to make changes to feel better much faster, make an appointment with one of our Chiropractors and massage therapists to get you feeling better quickly  and return to high quality uninterrupted sleep. 

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