Waking up with neck pain? Check out these 5 possible explanations

When you wake up in the morning, you’re hoping to feel rested and ready to take on the day. Those hopes can be dashed if you feel an ache in your neck that makes it difficult to even turn your head to stop your alarm.

Waking up with neck pain can put you in a bad mood for the rest of the day. It can make you twinge from the ache when you try to look at your rearview mirror while reversing your car or try to turn to your co-worker to ask a question. 

There are a variety of possible reasons behind your neck pain. We’ll talk about the basics of neck pain, possible causes for waking up with neck pain and how physical therapy can help.

What you need to know about neck pain

When people talk about neck pain, they’re often referring to pain in their cervical spine, which consists of the first seven vertebral bones in the spine.

Neck pain is one of the most common types of pain that people can experience. It’s right behind lower back pain as the most common musculoskeletal disorder that’s reported by primary care and population surveys.

Approximately 80% of people will experience neck pain in their lifetime, and up to 50% have neck pain on an annual basis. 

Neck pain often occurs alongside other symptoms including:

  • Stiffness or reduced range of motion.
  • Muscle spasms or tightness.
  • Headaches.

5 possible reasons that you’re waking up with neck pain

While you may want to brush off neck pain as no big deal, it’s important to think about potential explanations so that you can properly treat it as well as take preventive measures in the future.

There are various reasons for waking up with neck pain, ranging from sleep issues to medical conditions that need further assistance. While some of these may only cause neck pain that flares when you wake up, others may cause an ache that lingers throughout the day.

Here are five potential explanations for waking up with neck pain:

  • Sleeping position — While you may not give much thought to the position of your body while you sleep, it’s possible that your sleeping position is the root cause of your neck pain in the morning. Lying on your stomach can cause your neck to be twisted for an extended period of time, resulting in you straining your muscles.
  • Unsupportive pillow — If your pillow doesn’t provide enough support for both your head and neck, you may experience issues in the morning due to tension in your neck. It’s also possible that your neck is propped up or in a twisted position due to the thickness of your pillow.
  • Pinched nerve — Also known as cervical radiculopathy, a pinched nerve refers to the inflammation and compression of the nerve roots in your cervical spine. It can be due to degeneration in your spine that develops over time, as well as a herniated disc. The main symptom is neck pain that radiates throughout your back, shoulders and arms. You may also experience muscle weakness and numbness.  
  • Muscle spasm — A common reason for neck pain when you wake up is a muscle spasm, or a sharp contraction, caused by a muscle strain. A muscle strain refers to a muscle that has been overstretched or damaged due to overuse, trauma or improper use.
  • Osteoarthritis — The most common type of arthritis that can develop in the neck is osteoarthritis, also known as cervical spondylosis. It occurs when the joints, bones and discs gradually break down over time due to wear and tear as you age. It can cause neck pain as well as stiffness.

How physical therapy can help if you have neck pain when you wake up

If you’re experiencing neck pain when you wake up, it can interfere with your ability to complete your daily activities and responsibilities. With physical therapy, you can help alleviate your current neck pain as well as improve the overall function of your neck.

Physical therapy can help neck pain in a variety of ways including:

  • Decreased pain.
  • Increased neck strength and flexibility.
  • Improved mobility and range of motion.
  • Reduced risk of future injury or recurring pain.

Common physical therapy treatments for neck pain include:

  • Therapeutic stretching.
  • Strengthening exercises.
  • Soft tissue manipulation.
  • Joint mobilization.
  • Graston Technique®.
  • Spinal decompression.

Lattimore Physical Therapy can help alleviate neck pain

While it can be annoying to feel neck pain when you wake up, physical therapy can be an effective option. At Lattimore Physical Therapy, we can discuss your neck pain with you and design a personalized treatment plan that can help. With treatments like soft tissue manipulation and guided stretches, you can reduce the pain and improve your neck’s function and range of motion.

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

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