Neck pain can be excruciating, and when you’re having it there’s little you can do to escape its agony. It’s been said that neck pain is one of the few physical conditions that can make you appreciate how lucky you were just a few days earlier, and how much you take lack of pain for granted.
One of the reasons that neck pain is so relentless is because of the flexibility of the topmost portion of your spine. There are seven small vertebrae that line up between the base of your skull and the bottom of the cervical spine, and they are able to move in an astonishing number of positions and directions, all while supporting the 12-pound weight of your head. It’s no wonder that if there’s an injury to the area, you feel it with every breath and every move.
If you’ve woken up with a pain in the neck and you don’t know where it came from, it’s a good idea to give it a day or two to go away, and treat it with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, as well as heat and ice. If you know you’ve been injured or the pain continues for more than a few days, then call our cervical spine specialist so we can identify the source of your discomfort and find a solution.
One thing that you can do to help yourself deal with the pain from your neck is to choose the most beneficial sleep position. Though you may favor sleeping on your stomach, doing so is one of the worst things you can do for your neck. It provides the least support for your vertebrae and puts additional strain on your neck muscles, which have to support the weight of your head. The higher the pillow you use, the worse your neck pain is likely to be, so if you absolutely can’t get to sleep in any other position, choose an extremely thin pillow.
The best sleeping position for your neck is to lie flat on your back with a pillow that supports your neck in a way that keeps the length of your spine — including the vertebrae closest to your head— in a neutral position. The goal is for your neck to be completely supported without having it flexed at too great an angle. If you are unable to sleep on your back, your second choice should be sleeping on your side, with a pillow tucked under your neck rather than under your head. Doing this will keep your spine neutral and protect you from additional stress.
Beyond choosing a supportive position for sleep, it is important to remember that though reading in bed — whether at a book or a screen — may be part of your nightly routine, doing so while your neck is already hurting is a bad idea. Almost any position that you would assume would put your head in a position where it is looking down, which further strains your neck muscles.
If your pain does not disappear in a day or two, contact our office to set up an appointment to get you back to pain free.