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Neck pain could have a variety of causes, including stress and poor posture and texting injuries from automobile or sports injuries, as well as chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia to mention just a few. However, there’s a third factor you’re not thinking about the way you sleep.

“Generally If you awake in pain around your neck, it’s because your pillow isn’t suited to your needs or the way that you sleep in is causing pain in your neck and/or both of them,” said sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern Cal’s Keck School of Medicine.

Experts advise selecting a pillow that is supportive of the natural curvature of your neck, which may differ from the pillow that is used by your partner in bed.

“Sleeping is a personal encounter,” explained Colleen Louw who is an accredited spinal and therapeutic pain specialist as well as spokeswoman for American Physical Therapy Association, in an email.

“Working with an physiotherapist can help you determine the triggers that cause the exacerbation of pain and the best strategies or positions that can help you get a better night’s sleep.” Louw said.

The position of your pillow can affect the choice of a pillow.

In general sleep on either your back or side is the best to prevent neck or back pain, say experts because both positions assist to keep the natural curve of your spine.

Back is the best option: The ideal place to sleep is to lie on your back with a pillow that lets your neck be placed so that you’re looking straight up at your ceiling. explained.

“If the pillow isn’t soft enough or large, then you’ll have to bend your head, which can create some problems,” he said. “Stand against the wall and place the pillow on top of your head. Are you still looking straight? It’s not a good idea to be staring at the ceiling, or looking down. You should be parallel towards the wall. The pillow should lead to less neck pain.”

Back sleepers should try to sleep with their hands on their side. A study from 2017 found that placing one hand over the head substantially caused neck and shoulder discomfort.

“If you are sleeping on your back then try with a firm pillow or a bolster on your knees” Louw added. “This will help to keep blood circulation moving to help prevent back pain in the event that your knees are flexed during rest.”

Side-sleepers: Sleeping on your side is okay so long as you ensure that your neck and head are straight with your body. In order to do this you’ll require the proper pillow.

A study from 2010 that looked at side sleepers revealed that those who were sleeping on feather pillows experienced more frequent awakenings than those who sleep on latex pillows. This was making it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Dasgupta recommends that side sleepers use an extra firm pillow to help to stabilize the neck while sleeping.

“If you’re a sleeper on your side it’s possible that a pillow with a firmer feel could harm your neck but it’s usually the pillow that is too soft which causes you to feel neck pain when you wake up,” Dasgupta said. “There’s always an opening between you and your mattress, which is why your pillow should be used as an aid in filling it.”

Additional pillows for sleeping will also aid in keeping hips, shoulders, and knees on the same level, Louw said.

“(Use) cushions between knees and occasionally in front of your stomach or your chest to support your arm.” she advised, “(to) prevent your shoulders from moving forward. This can cause your neck to rotate when you sleep. The goal is to maintain blood flow through your joints, and then your nerves , which will help prevent discomfort.”

No bellyflops: “The one position we do not encourage is lying in your stomachs,” Dasgupta said.

The position of your stomach when you sleep causes your neck to lean on one side for a prolonged duration of time. It also forces the lower back to sag inward due to gravity, which leads into neck pain and back discomfort.

Sleepers who lie on their stomachs must do their best to shift towards sleeping with their side or back Experts suggest. Consider a cervical pillow that is specifically designed to hold your neck in position. Put soft pillows, rolled-up blankets or bath towels, or a body pillow the opposite the side to prevent you from slipping onto your stomach when you your sleep.

How can you help neck pain in the neck?

What’s the best course for course of action in the event that you awake with neck discomfort?

Ice and heat:Try taking a very warm shower to relax and loosen your neck muscles. This can ease your discomfort and increase your motion range, Dasgupta said. Try the ice pack, or alternate between heating pads and the ice.

“The principal thing to remember is to not use each for longer than fifteen minutes at one time,” Louw said. “But they can be utilized at any time.”

Massage The manipulation of muscles and muscles in the neck may increase blood circulation and ease tension in muscles, Dasgupta stated. Test different massage techniques until you can find one that is effective for you.

Stretch and move around:While you should avoid vigorous activities and avoid movements that cause discomfort, “walking and moving around is still encouraged because prolonged bed rest could cause stiff neck and back pain to persist for much longer” Dasgupta said.

Do you need to stretch? If so, make the movements gentle to ensure that you don’t aggravate the situation. There are, however, more effective methods, Louw said.

“Gradual and paced active movements is more effective to reduce discomfort and stiffness than stretching when instructed by a health professional or physical therapist” she explained.

Research suggests that exercise can help relieve neck pain that results from sleeping better than other treatments that are non-invasive like yoga, massage, acupuncture or relaxation methods. A study from 2020 showed that sleeping and mood improved for people suffering from persistent neck pain increased workout levels.

“If the stiffness and pain are severe enough to restrict your movement, think about taking acetaminophen and ibuprofen according to the dosage recommended by your doctor. Discuss with your physician whether you should stay away from any of these drugs,” Dasgupta said.