Do you wake up with a sore and stiff neck? It’s not something that you should just have to deal with or expect to come with aging. It starts with having a good pillow. So many people use the same pillows for several years and don’t even think of changing them. Not only do they become unhygienic, but you may just be too comfortable with using this familiar pillow that you don’t realize you are not getting proper neck support.
No one’s neck or body is the same with regard to muscle tension, thickness, and length. Plus, you may or may not suffer from past or present neck injuries. These are some of the reasons why there are so many different types and sizes of pillows available on the market.
Your choice of pillow is key in terms of whether or not you are waking up with neck stiffness. Not to mention, a lot of it comes down to personal preference and sleeping position. Your neck needs to be well supported in a neutral position throughout the night. This enables your muscles to relax.
Your muscles will have to work through the night to keep trying to stabilize your neck = sore and achy muscles when you wake up.
What happens when your pillow is too high or firm?
Your neck will be bent in an abnormal position to the side or forward and that will put a lot of strain on your neck and shoulder muscles = aching when you wake up.
What happens when your pillow is too low?
Your neck is will not be supported, plus the joints between your vertebrae in your neck will compress into each other = stiffness when you wake up.
Would a contoured pillow be a good solution?
A contoured pillow can definitely support your neck better while you sleep, but some people have a hard time getting used to them.
How much does your sleeping position factor in when choosing a pillow?
Your sleeping position is actually really important to consider when choosing a pillow. If you have neck pain, it is better to sleep on your back or on your side.
Back sleepers – A lower pillow is better for back sleepers. You can also roll a small towel and position it under your neck as well for more support. Some back sleepers also find that placing a pillow under their shoulders is more comfortable, as this places their head further up on the pillow so that their neck is not strained from being bent. Placing a pillow under your knees when sleeping on your back can also lessen the strain on your lower back.
Side sleepers – Do better with higher pillows so their neck and head are aligned straight over their shoulders. If side sleepers place a pillow between their knees, it can be a great support for their spine.
Stomach sleepers – Can end up with a stressed neck because this position makes their back arch and their head turn. If side sleepers are really used to sleeping on their stomach and find it too difficult to change their sleeping position, it is better if they use a flat pillow or leave out the pillow altogether.
What if my neck problems still persist?
If you change your pillow to one that is a more suitable height, try a contoured pillow, and/or try changing your sleeping position, but are still having issues with stiffness and aching, you have probably been suffering with this for quite some time.
What is the next step?
You definitely want to book an appointment with your physiotherapist. They can help release your muscles and mobilize your joints. You will likely need a few sessions, but this is something that your physiotherapist can discuss with you once they can examine you in person.
It is also really important to pay attention to your posture throughout the day. This includes having an ergonomic workspace and being cognizant of how much time you spend looking down at your phone, which unfortunately is a big contributing factor to neck issues.