Approximately 15 percent of the 100 million or so Americans who experience chronic pain have neck-related discomfort. Even if your neck pain isn’t chronic, you may find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep if you have occasional neck-related aches and pains. In turn, a lack of sufficient sleep can contribute to reduced energy and increased pain. Below you’ll find some handy sleeping tips to keep in mind if you have issues with neck pain.
The pillow height that properly aligns your head, neck, shoulders, and upper spine will depend on your preferred sleeping position. Here’s what’s typically recommended for different types of sleepers:
• Back sleepers – If you normally sleep on your back, you may benefit from a thin pillow. Ideally, your head-neck alignment when you lie down should be similar to what it is when you correctly stand with good posture.
Tip: Have a family member or friend take a picture as you lie down so you can see if you’ve got the right pillow height and correct alignment.
• Side sleepers – A thicker pillow is advised if you’re a side sleeper. Also, take the height and width of your shoulders into consideration as you choose a pillow that retains your spine’s natural alignment with your head.
• Stomach sleepers – Stomach sleeping tends to place more pressure on the cervical spine (neck). However, if you really can’t sleep well in another position, consider either an ultra-thin pillow or none at all.
Tip: A roll-shaped pillow or a rolled-up towel placed under your neck may also keep your spine properly aligned if you’re a stomach sleeper.
Your phone could contribute to your neck pain as well, especially if you normally crane your neck while using it. This places extra pressure on your neck and its supporting muscles. If you really need to check your phone before you go to bed, keep it at eye level.
Another thing with phones and sleep is the blue light they emit. There are studies that suggest blue light disrupts the body’s natural sleep cycle by delaying the release of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep–wake cycle.
Tight neck muscles can contribute to the pain and stiffness that sometimes make it difficult to sleep well. There are several types of neck stretches you can do before bed to relieve tension and loosen your neck-supporting muscles. Here’s how to do one that targets the muscle that connects your neck to your shoulder blade (levator scapulae muscle):
• Sit straight up with your hands resting at your sides
• Lift one arm and use it to reach back and grasp the same shoulder it’s connected to by the shoulder blade*
• Rotate your head in the opposite direction about halfway toward your other shoulder
• Move your chin downward until you feel the stretch
• Hold for about 30–60 seconds and switch sides
*This step can be skipped if it’s too difficult.
If your neck pain does become chronic in nature, get an accurate diagnosis from a Los Angeles spine surgeon to find out what’s going on. After you receive a personalized treatment plan, the sleeping tips discussed above could minimize your neck pain and prevent new spine-related discomfort from developing.
If your neck pain is caused by a more serious underlying issue, such as a diseased or bulging cervical disc, treatment to relieve your pain may be more complicated, including replacing the damaged disc with a Mobi-C artificial disc. Los Angeles residents should see a spinal health specialist if their neck pain is severe, frequent, or continues without relief for a sustained period. The pioneering physicians at The Spine Institute have years of experience diagnosing and treating all forms of neck and back pain and employing the most innovative treatment methods. Call us today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a personal consultation.