Waking Up with Neck Pain: Understanding the Causes and Solutions

Waking Up with Neck Pain: Understanding the Causes and Solutions

Are you waking up to a sore neck in the morning? Does it hurt to turn your head? You might have a case of neck stiffness and it sure isn’t the most pleasant way to start your day!

While most of the time it might just be a case of bad posture or using a wrong pillow, other times it might be indicative of a more serious issue like damage and tear of the muscles due to physical growth, strain or long hours sitting in one position at the desk.

It's important to evaluate what's causing your neck stiffness or neck pain to reduce the risk by focusing on some things like how you sleep at night. Yes, your sleeping posture plays an important role in finding the root cause of your pain.

Let's talk about it in more detail…

How Sleeping May Be The Reason Behind Neck Stiffness Or Neck Pain

There are many possible ways. Here are some of them.

Awkward Positions:

While sleeping on the stomach might seem like the ultimate comfort position, it does more harm than good for your neck postures. Sleeping on your stomach causes the head to twist to the sides, leaving the body relaxed in an awkward position.

However, sleeping in this posture for an extended time will cause immense stress or stretch within the muscles or ligaments, making it tough to try and do your daily activities after getting up in the morning.

Sleeping on the abdomen may also strain your back if the mattress isn’t comfortable enough.


Yes! A pillow can cause pain. Since your head and neck spend a good amount of time lying on a pillow, it is necessary to invest in a good pillow.

You can use feather pillows for sleeping as they'll contour your neck properly. Additionally, a memory foam pillow can be an excellent option too. Cervical pillows created out of memory foam are easily available in the market.

Ensure that the pillow you're using isn't too high, low, or stiff. If you sleep on your side, use a pillow that's a little above the normal pillow so that your neck and spine stay aligned while sleeping.

Sudden Movements:

Sometimes sudden movements such as rolling on the bed while sleeping or waking up abruptly from a nightmare will cause a sudden jerk in the neck, resulting in stress or strain.

Other Reasons:

Many other reasons can cause neck stiffness that aren’t related to sleep.

  • Poor posture throughout the day
  • Working for an extended period on a desktop
  • Osteoarthritis in your upper joint
  • Cervical degenerative disc disease

Remedies To Prevent Neck Pain Or Stiffness

Home Remedies:

Use an ice pack on the stiff neck for twenty minutes to cut back the inflammation. If the pain has been there for over a day, use a heating pad because it can help soothe and relax the muscles. If the pain persists and stops you from moving your neck, consult a medical professional and acquire prescribed medication to tackle the pain.


Some easy exercises will help strengthen the muscles, so you don't wake up with a pain in your neck.

Neck Rotation:

Something as basic as neck rotations can also help avoid neck stiffness. Face straight up with your hands on the side and neck erect. Move your neck slowly towards your left till you can see your shoulder and hold it for a couple of seconds, then turn it slowly towards the right and repeat.

Dumbbell shrug:

Place your feet shoulder-width apart, chin raised, and neck and back straight. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and slowly bring your shoulders up, touching your ears. See how you feel the muscles contract in your upper back and neck. Hold it up for several seconds, then bring it back down.

You can consult a physical therapist for a diagnosis if changing pillows or physical exercises doesn't lead to improvement.

If you want to search for physiotherapy exercises for your neck, visit VisscoNext to learn more about pain relief and other preventive fitness solutions.

References: How to Treat a Stiff Neck After Sleeping, Waking Up with Neck Pain: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention and Say "good night" to neck pain - Harvard Health