One of the most frequent causes of neck and shoulder pain is postural stress in sleeping!
I’m referring to the way we sleep and even what we do before we sleep.
Have you ever woken up in the morning with a stiff and slightly painful neck that was not causing problems the night before? Often it’s just an annoying ache that eases off shortly after you’ve got out of bed, but after days of waking up feeling like this, it can become a lot more painful.
It’s something that we don’t usually think about, but one of the most important things to consider is the effect that sleeping can have upon our neck and shoulders.
An increase in neck or shoulder pain is a common problem that many people experience as a direct result of resting for 8 hours or more in an awkward position, either on an old mattress which needs replacing, or on the wrong types of pillows.
Because having your neck twisted or bent in a funny position for long periods of time isn’t good for the body, and after a while your body becomes so used to being in a certain position when you go to sleep (the position you’ve been sleeping in for most of your life!) – night after night, so no wonder why the neck becomes painful.
Another thing I see a lot that people do before they turn in for the evening is that they watch TV or read. But the thing is while doing these things, the head is rarely supported properly, causing a lot of strain on the muscles – leading to aches and pains in your neck…
So the solution to waking up refreshed and pain-free?
Firstly, if you like to read or watch your favorite TV show before drifting off, take a look at how you’re sitting. Do you prop yourself up with several pillows behind you with your neck either bent forward, or straining to look up at the TV screen?
If yes, please yourself into a neutral position tonight instead, where your arms are supported and your neck is kept straight in-line with your back. What helps my patients is when they think of it like this – it’s as if you have a piece of string attached to the top of your head keeping you upright, after a while of getting used to this, the pressure on your neck should ease off.
Another thing to consider is the position you adopt while sleeping. Do you sleep on your stomach? Your back? Or your side?
My tip is to avoid sleeping on your stomach as this forces your head to be twisted into an unnatural position. Instead sleep on your back, this way your body is kept nicely in line and your spine is supported.
One more thing, you might think sleeping on your back is all well and good but it won’t change a thing if your pillows aren’t helping your neck.
Sleeping with more than one pillow behind your head can place your neck into an awkward position. When sleeping on your back it’s important to find a pillow that doesn’t tilt your head forwards or backwards.
So, it’s important to sleep in a position you find comfortable but one that also supports your body at the same time. Experimenting with different sleeping positions won’t do you any harm if your neck and back aren’t twisted.
Why don’t you give it a try? And let me know how you get on!
Dr. Chan has given numerous workshops and talks on “How to End Neck and Back Pain?” at local libraries, senior centers, and community centers. He is now a trusted health and wellness advisor in the local community.