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Why Do I Feel Pain in Neck When Lying Down?

Neck pain is whenever your neck hurts. Pain in the neck when lying down is a common problem that has many causes. Your neck has a hard job. Holds the same weight as a bowling ball all day long. The bones at the top of the spine, along with muscles and ligaments, support the head, which weighs about 11 pounds.

It can be a delicate balance. Things like poor sleep and poor posture can cause neck pain, as more than one-quarter of American adults can tell you. This is usually not a sign of a more serious health problem.

What are the Symptoms of Neck Pain?

If you have neck pain, you may experience other symptoms, including:

  • Pain that gets worse when you hold your head in a certain way while working on a computer, driving, or doing other tasks

  • Muscle tension or spasms

  • Difficulty moving your neck or head

  • Headaches

  • Crick in neck

Causes of Pain in Neck While Lying

Some of the most common causes of pain on the right side of the neck include the following:

1. Degeneration Or Wear and Tear

The vertebrae and discs in the neck wear out with age. As they degenerate, a person may experience a chronic or persistent sore throat. Certain medical conditions can also cause the vertebrae, discs, and other parts of the neck to collapse.

These conditions may include:

  • Inflammation

  • Pinched nerves

  • Cervical fractures

  • Arthritis

  • Cervical disc degeneration

2. Bad Sleeping Position

It is common to wake up feeling stiff or sore in your shoulders, back, or neck. The sleeping position people take, the number of pillows they use and the firmness of the mattress can all affect how they wake up in the morning. Falling asleep with insufficient head support or a misaligned neck makes it more likely that you will wake up with a sore neck.

3. Non-Specific Neck Pain

In some cases, it is difficult to determine the exact cause of neck pain treatment. Neck pain without an obvious cause is often the result of a minor sprain or tear in muscle tissue. This type of pain is the most common neck pain.

Pain can sometimes be caused by poor posture. Holding the neck out of alignment for extended periods of time can strain the muscles. This is especially true if one is bent over one's work for several hours during the day.

4. Stress and Anxiety

Stress can cause muscle tension. People often talk about maintaining tension in their neck and back and may feel pain from excess tension.

5. Sudden Onset Or Acute Torticollis

Torticollis is a medical condition in which the head twists to one side. It can be very painful trying to straighten your head. The cause of torticollis is not always known.

Doctors believe that most cases are caused by minor sprains of ligaments or muscles in the neck, although prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can also be the cause.

Torticollis often occurs overnight, meaning a person will have no symptoms when they go to sleep, but wake up unable to move their neck. In most cases, the pain subsides after a few days and movement returns to normal.

Occasionally, torticollis can be a symptom of a more serious medical problem. Some potential underlying causes of torticollis include tumors, infections, and side effects of medication.

6. Brachial Plexus Injury

The American Society for Surgery of the Hand defines the brachial plexus as the set of nerves that connect the spinal cordin the neck to the arms. If a neck injury affects the brachial plexus, pain may also occur in the arm.

A common cause of brachial plexus injury is blunt force trauma, which can occur as a result of a sports injury or car accident injury.

7. A Whiplash Or a Sudden Blow to the Neck

Whiplash describes a neck injury where the head is jerked forward very quickly and then back into place. The movement resembles the cracking of a whip. People tend to think of whiplash in relation to car accidents, but it can also occur as a result of sports activities and other sudden movements.

8. Cervical Radiculopathy

Cervical radiculopathy, which people often refer to as a pinched nerve, occurs when irritation of the nerves coming from the spinal cord stimulation in the neck causes pain to radiate into the arm.

Although this can lead to a sore throat, primary symptoms include:

  • Numbness in the arms

  • Pins and needles in the arms

  • Pain or weakness in part of the arm

The two most common causes of cervical radiculopathy are cervical spondylosis, or cervical arthritis, and a herniated disc.

9. Rare Causes of Neck Pain on the Right Side

There are less common causes of neck pain that can be more serious. They may include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Cancer 

  • Serious injury

  • Damage to the nerves, vertebrae, or spinal cord

  • Infection 

  • Bone disorders

What Can You Do About Neck Pain From Sleeping?

So what now? 

Just in pain all day and with a bent neck? No! Time to act. Although time can be one of the best cures for a sore or stiff neck, we want to speed up the healing process AND reduce the risk of waking up with a sore neck again. 

First thing first: If you wake up with a sore throat, put ice on it. Try 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off. This will reduce inflammation. It is an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as Motrin (ibuprofen).

If it's been a few days and your sore throat is stubborn, switch from ice to heat. Again, 20 minutes on, and 20 minutes off is a good starting point.

If your neck pain is caused by a cramping muscle, heat can help it relax and get blood to it. For the same reason, gently massaging the area can sometimes work, but be careful not to overdo it.

Stretching, which can also prove helpful, straddles the line between treatment and prevention. By the time you're actually in pain, it may be too late for stretching to help, but keeping your muscles relaxed and flexible can reduce your risk of future sprains, muscle and tendon strains, and torticollis.

Try Stretching Your Neck Through Several Planes of Motion

The following steps may help with Pain in the neck when lying down:

  • Try touching your right ear to your right shoulder. Press gently on the left side of the head. Return to the center and repeat on the left side. Do 10 repetitions from left to right.

  • Look up to the ceiling as far as you can. Return to the center and look down as far as you can. Do 10 reps each up and down.

  • Turn your head to the right. Press gently on the chin with your left hand. Return to the center and repeat on the left side. Do 10 repetitions each on the right and left.

  • Make a large clockwise circle with your nose, five times around. Make five counter-clockwise circles.

  • "Chin-alphabet": using your chin as a pointer, gently outline the alphabet from A to Z

You can stretch your neck muscles every day to reduce tension. Stretching will help keep your neck flexible, but if you really want to reduce neck pain from sleeping, you need to address the two underlying causes discussed above. 

The first is easy: Change your sleeping position to your back if you sleep on your side, or your back or side if you sleep on your stomach. Second—and this one might cost a few dollars—get a new pillow that keeps your head and neck in line with the rest of your spine.

  • Stretch Before Bed

You know you need to stretch before you exercise, but did you know it's also a good idea to stretch your neck before bed? Your neck muscles can get tense and strained throughout the day, and you need to release that tension before you hit the sack. 

Stand a foot from the wall and put your hands above your head. Hold this position for a few seconds and then place your hand on the wall. Move your head from left to right and point your chin towards the floor. This will stretch your neck so you will feel less neck pain when lying down.

  • Don't Take Your Phone to Bed

Are you guilty of looking at your phone while lying in bed? 

This can be the cause of neck pain. Contact With Pain Management Specialist and Premier Pain Centers Fort Worth hospital. You probably look down at your phone and that puts a lot of pressure on your neck. The extra force can damage your tendons, ligaments, and muscles. 

There is also another problem with looking at the phone in bed. The light it emits tells your brain it's time to wake up, making it harder to fall asleep. Ditch the phone so you can enjoy a pain-free night's sleep.

  • Choose the Right Pillow

Your pillow may be the cause of your neck pain when lying down. Your pillow must be the right height to support your neck while you sleep. If you sleep on your back, go with a thin pillow. 

If you sleep on your side, your pillow needs to be a little thicker so that your head and neck stay between your shoulders. The wider your shoulders, the thicker the pillow needs to be.

What if you sleep on your stomach? This one is a bit more complicated. Sleeping on your stomach is hard on your neck and is likely to cause neck pain. If possible, avoid sleeping on your stomach. If you simply cannot fall asleep any other way, use the thinnest pillow you can find. 

You also have the option of sleeping without a pillow. It might feel weird at first, but it can help you avoid neck pain while lying down.

Dr. Rao K. Ali M.D.

Dr. Rao Ali, a board-certified pain management physician, leads the clinic, which specializes in nonsurgical treatment. The physician has experience in the emergency room as well as training in pain management and rehabilitation. As a personal physician, he works with each patient to develop a treatment plan that will minimize or eliminate their pain. Providing expert diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of conditions, Pain Management In Dallas, PA provides a comprehensive range of services. These services include neck pain, back pain, hip and knee pain, fibromyalgia, neuropathy, complex regional pain syndrome, headaches, migraines, and many others.