Why does my neck hurt when I wake up?

Many people suffer from neck pain when sleeping or when getting up in the morning. Neck pain, on many occasions, can be caused by poor posture, as well as by problems related to the mattress and pillow, and the truth is that it is very annoying, and can even interfere with our quality of life. by not getting enough rest. In this article, we want to help you answer what are the main causes for which we suffer these pains. Likewise, we explain how to sleep with neck pain and how to avoid neck pain when sleeping. Keep reading this article for more information!


At least 35% of the population wake up with neck pain every morning, according to the Pain Barometer —the second most common after back pain, which affects 37%—. Cervical discomfort can be due to several causes and in most cases it usually leads to torticollis or, what is the same, a prolonged muscle contraction that affects the neck muscles and usually causes a slight sprain in the head. What happens is that our body suffers a distension of the muscles or soft parts , such as ligaments and tendons. In the latter cases, recovery is usually faster compared to muscle strains since they usually have a greater blood supply that facilitates improvement.

Now, why does my neck hurt when I sleep? What has caused me torticollis? These are some of the main causes that influence neck pain when sleeping.


Sleeping with poor posture is one of the main reasons why our neck usually hurts. What happens in this case is that the muscles can become strained because the neck has been subjected to constant tension throughout the night .


When we talk about neck pain when sleeping due to poor posture, we are not only referring to the hours in which we are lying in bed. Also, to the position of the neck when we are awake and to the pain or discomfort we feel at bedtime. One of the most frequent causes today is due to the constant use of the mobile phone. And it is that this implies that with respect to our neutral posture there is an inclination of the neck of between 45 and 60º , which makes the weight of the head intensify from 5 Kg —when in a neutral position— to almost 30 Kg when inclined. In the long run this results in serious problems of neck pain, spinal damage, loss of cervical mobility or stiffness. The main symptoms of poor posture are usually difficulty moving the neck, localized pain in one point or area of ​​the neck, weakness in the shoulder muscles, or tension headaches.


It is another reason why our neck can hurt when we sleep. This is very common when doing strength exercises or carrying excessive weight . This is known as cervical pain and, although in most cases it is not usually serious, it is important to be careful since it can be resented in the long run. Poorly performed exercises, such as sit-ups, can also cause neck pain.


Muscle tension caused by stress causes us to inadvertently adopt poor posture—such as hunching our shoulders forward and tilting our heads further back. This ends up causing pain in the neck and head.


Many of the main back and neck pains when sleeping in bed have to do with the use of a worn or poor quality mattress . And it is that, over the years, it ends up losing firmness and it is possible that it even deforms on one of the sides. This causes us to adopt incorrect postures when sleeping that can affect the aforementioned pain. The pillow, on the other hand, is usually also responsible for these pains. The size or thickness of the recommended pillow varies depending on the position we adopt to sleep —as we will see below—.


How to sleep

The key to sleeping with neck pain is to work on your posture and check your resting place. Please note the following:

  • Best sleeping position for neck pain : The best sleeping position for neck pain is in the fetal position. That is, on your side, with your knees and arms bent. In this way, the joints will be in the correct position and the cervical, dorsal and lumbar muscles will not have any tension, so they will be relaxed.
  • How to sleep to relax the neck : Apart from the fetal position we can also choose other postures to respond to how to sleep to relax the neck. It is important that we bear in mind that if we sleep on our back we will keep our necks straight, but if we sleep on our side we will support our neck in better conditions. In any case, it is advisable never to sleep on your stomach since this can tense it and intensify the pain – however, it depends on each case.
  • The choice of pillow : Do not use a pillow that is too high. Please note the following:
    • Low pillow (10 cm) : For those who sleep on their stomach.
    • Medium pillow (12 to 13 cm) : For those who sleep on their backs. This should be lower than the shoulders and have a medium hardness.
    • High pillow (15 cm) : For those who sleep on their side. Keeps the head and neck in good alignment.
  • Place a pillow between your knees : Placing a pillow between your knees is a great help to adopt the correct posture, which will prevent you from suffering neck pain, but also to rest better when you sleep on your side.


After explaining the best posture to sleep with neck pain and answering how to sleep to relax your neck, it’s time to answer how to avoid neck pain. Keep in mind the following tips:

  • Ice and heat application : You can use a cold compress and apply it on the neck or, on the contrary, make use of seed compresses that generate moist heat and apply it for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Over-the -Counter Medications: Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen are highly recommended for relieving neck contractures and pain.
  • Massages : Another way we have to relieve neck pain is to massage the affected area to promote blood circulation.
  • Stretches and exercises for pain : Ask your physical therapist about the best stretches and exercises to relieve neck pain.
  • Chiropractic : Chiropractic is, likewise, a highly recommended option for more serious problems and very useful to answer how to avoid neck pain when sleeping. The professionals dedicated to this service will help you correct the position of your cervical vertebrae, eliminating the restrictions of your spine and resolving neck stiffness.

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