For some people, neck pain has become a normal part of waking up and getting through the day. Neck issues can range from dull discomfort to debilitating pain that affects things that many of us take for granted – working at the computer, driving a car, exercising, and having a thriving social life. The neck is a complicated structure, which makes it prone to getting stiff, sore, and uncomfortable. If you wake up with a stiff, painful neck, then check out the tips below to see if they can give you some needed relief.
Why is My Neck Vulnerable to Pain and Stiffness?
The neck, also known as the cervical spine, is consists of seven vertebrae that connect the skull with the upper part of the torso. These bones, combined with many ligaments and muscles, give strength, movement, and stability to the neck. The neck differs from other parts of your spine for several reasons:
- It has the greatest range of motion
- It supports and balances the weight of the head
- Smaller vertebrae offer less protection to the spinal cord and nerves than the rest of the spine
These factors make the neck more vulnerable to injury, pain, and other problems. When your neck is stiff and painful, it can have its origins in the muscles, ligaments, nerves, bones, or discs of the spine. Many cases of neck pain arise following an accident or injury, and many come on after prolonged periods of wear and tear.
Sleeping Better for Less Neck Pain
One of the biggest factors for combatting neck pain is your sleep position. Sleeping on your stomach is notoriously difficult on your spine since your neck is turned maximally to the side and your back can arch and hyperextend. The two positions that are easier on the neck are sleeping on your back or on your side. Here are some factors to consider when trying to set yourself up for the most comfortable night of sleep:
Choose the right height pillow for your desired sleep position.
Stomach sleepers need a very thin pillow or no pillow at all. Back sleepers should choose a pillow that is relatively thin and has a contour that will support the back of your neck and allow the back of your head to rest in a neutral position without forcing it forwards. Side sleepers will typically need the thickest pillow to accommodate the shoulder, but your spine should still be kept in a straight and neutral position.
Pick a pillow made from the right materials.
Feather pillows are nice because they will easily conform to the shape of your neck. However, they tend to collapse over time and need to be replaced more frequently. Memory foam pillows are another popular option that can conform to the shape of your head and neck and have a longer life than a down feather pillow.
Make sure your mattress is supportive as well.
One way to extend the life of your mattress is to flip and/or rotate it on a regular schedule. An easy way to remember to do this is to take care of it in the Spring and Fall as you change your clocks for daylight savings time. Some mattresses have a designated top and bottom (I.e. mattresses with a built-in memory foam topper), so these should simply be rotated rather than flipped.
Some of these changes, like getting a better pillow, are easy to incorporate. Others, such as your preferred sleep position, can be difficult to change. Most people don’t wake up in the same position they fall asleep in. If you’re able to start out the night right and fall asleep in a healthy and well-supported position, it can set you up for a good night’s rest and less pain upon waking up in the morning.
Natural, Lasting Neck Pain Relief
Your neck is designed for movement which, while important, leaves it more vulnerable to injury. The part of your neck that can be most easily compromised is the very top where it forms a connection to your head. This part of your neck, the upper cervical spine, has two very different, uniquely shaped vertebrae called the atlas (C1) and axis (C2). This area of the neck is different because it bears most of the weight of your head and accounts for most of its movement. It does not have the shock-absorbing discs and the interlocking facet joints that the rest of your neck has to keep it more stable.
When the atlas or axis misalign, the rest of your neck is forced into a stressed position to compensate for the head’s weight being carried off-center. Over time, this will inevitably increase the stress on the muscles, bones, discs, joints, and ligaments leading to pain and discomfort. Neck pain often accompanies headaches, jaw pain, shoulder pain, numbness and tingling in the arms or hands, and a host of other symptoms. Many of these can be connected with a misalignment that originally occurred in the upper neck that has been left uncorrected.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care
Upper cervical chiropractic care is a niche within the chiropractic profession that takes a different approach to analyze and adjust these misalignments. Unless you’ve experienced upper cervical chiropractic in the past, you might be pleasantly surprised at the personalized care. Upper cervical chiropractors perform a thorough analysis for each patient to employ a customized correction of misalignments. Because are specific to needs, it doesn’t require a high level of force to correct. For you, this means gentle, specific, and individualized care that yields lasting results. If you are suffering from chronic neck issues that impact your sleep, your day-to-day life, and that never seem to really go away, then schedule a consultation with an upper cervical chiropractor. It can be the first step towards getting the help you need to feel better.