How Your Bedtime Routine May Be Causing Your Neck Pain

At our cervical spine specialty practice in New Jersey, we are dedicated to finding the root of our patients’ neck pain and provide them with effective relief. In many cases, pain is caused by some type of degenerative physical problem or an injury impacting their cervical spine. While possibilities include herniated discs, arthritis, or strained muscles caused by overexertion, sometimes problems are caused by bad habits patients have developed they over time, and which they are unaware are causing or exacerbating their pain. Many times these habits involve the individual’s nighttime routine.

When patients arrive at our office for a diagnosis, we conduct extensive physical examinations. We also ask them many questions to see the extent to which lifestyle choices are contributing to their discomfort. We frequently find that people who are experiencing neck pain are sleeping with too many pillows. If you are sleeping with two or more pillows to support your head, you are tilting your head into an unnatural position and forcing it to hold that position for the full duration of the time that you are sleep. With most patients sleeping between 7 and 9 hours per evening, that is a tremendous amount of pressure being put on your neck muscles over a sustained period of time. We recommend that patients cut down to just one pillow that provides their head and neck with a level of support that keeps their spine in its proper alignment. Doing so will likely result in almost immediate relief, especially for those who are waking up with neck pain.

Another nighttime habit that most people don’t realize is causing them neck pain relates to the time between when they climb into bed and when they go to sleep. If you are propping yourself up to read, check emails or play video games on your phone for an hour or more each night, you are putting unnecessary tension on the muscles in your neck, tilting your head forward and holding it there. At the same time you are holding your book, phone or tablet in your hands, possibly ahead of you, putting additional pressure on your shoulders. Though the obvious answer to this problem is to relocate out of bed and sit in a more comfortable, supportive environment, we know that is unlikely to happen, especially if reading in bed is an activity that you’ve been doing throughout your entire life. Instead we suggest that you position your pillows in such a way that your ears are always positioned over your shoulders. Doing so takes an immense amount of pressure off of your neck muscles.

In our practice, we are big believers in taking a conservative approach to our patients cervical spine pain, and we’ve found that making small changes can make a big difference. Try adjusting your pillows and your nighttime habits to see if that gives you relief. If not, contact our cervical spine practice in New Jersey to set up an appointment for a diagnosis and effective treatment protocol.

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