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Waking Up with Neck Pain? Treatment and Prevention for Neck Pain from Sleeping Wrong

This article is contributed by Seitai S-Shape.

Many of the symptoms commonly called "Pain from sleeping wrong" refer to a slightly pulled muscle around the neck. The human head should be in the middle position relative to the width of the neck viewed from the front, but it tends to deviate from that position during sleep.

If the neck remains bent in a strange direction for a long time, the muscles of the neck will not have good blood flow in parts, and the muscles will easily become stiff. If you suddenly move your head and neck when you wake up in such a state, you will sprain your neck.

For example, when exercising, if you suddenly do an intense workout without stretching, you will damage your muscles. In the same way,  sudden movement of stiff muscles during sleep causes a slightly pulled muscle. In other words, the pain from wrong sleep does not occur when you are sleeping. The cause of it is made during sleep, but it is when you wake up that the inflammation from sleeping wrong occurs.

What you can and cannot do right after sleeping wrong

What you should do right after sleeping wrong

When you wake up and feel that you have slept wrong, it is essential not to move your neck from a comfortable position.

It is also recommended to apply a cold compress containing anti-inflammatory and analgesic ingredients for about 48 hours after the onset of pain. However, do not apply it for a long time. A good rule of thumb is approximately one hour.

What you should not do after sleeping wrong

It is not a good idea to roll your neck back and forth from side to side, or touch it with your hands, to check the movement. Pain from wrong sleep is inflammation or injury. So try not to move or touch it. You should not stretch your neck or massage the painful area right after a wrong sleep.

It is also not recommended to use an ice pack to cool the area for a long time. Icing will give you temporary pain relief. On the other hand, it may slow down the recovery of the injured area because it worsens the blood flow to the muscles. Also, if the injury is not to a muscle but a ligament or nerve, the inflammation is deep in the neck, so cooling will not have an analgesic effect.

In addition, it is not a good idea to heat the area immediately after inflammation. Since the affected area is hot, warming it up may increase the inflammation. It is also advisable to avoid taking a hot bath. Immediately after you have slept wrong, it is OK to cool the area temporarily, but not for a long time. It is best to remember that you should not warm the area until the pain has subsided. Usually, severe pain will go away in a few days to a week.

Tips and key points for a quick recovery

In the early stage, just rest. Avoid any movement that makes you feel pain. Rest is the best way to repair the damaged tissues.

When you enter a stable period when the pain is relieved, improve blood flow to promote recovery. There are various ways to improve blood flow, such as warming, stretching, and massage. Which method is appropriate depends on the condition, so please follow your specialist's instructions.

What should I do when the pain is intense?

If you have strong neck pain and have a hard time, you can make a "neck pillow" by wrapping a towel or scarf around your neck. The purpose is to stabilize your head, so it is unnecessary to wind it up so tightly that it becomes choking.

If it is difficult to wrap a towel or scarf around your neck due to work commitments, wearing a corset around your waist is a good idea. Wearing a corset around the waist will keep the pelvis upright and the spine straight, thus stabilizing the position of the head.

In extreme cases, Pain from wrong sleep can be left untreated and eventually go away. If you want to heal it as soon as possible, you should see a specialist. However, if the problem occurs too often, your body may be distorted.  Poor posture, such as hunching over, can cause the neck bones to be out of their proper position, usually compressing the muscles around the neck and making you prone to sleep wrong.

Four Preventive Measures for Pain from Wrong Sleep

1. Use a firm mattress that is easy to turn over

It is said that people who don't toss and turn while sleeping are more likely to sleep wrong. Tidy sleepers are likely not to toss and turn, and their muscles and blood flow tend to become stiff.

If your posture at bedtime does not change much from the posture when you wake up, or if others tell you that you don't toss and turn, you should use a firm mattress to encourage natural tossing and turning. Avoid mattresses made of low-resilience or soft materials as they make it difficult to turn over.

2. Use a pillow that is not too high or too low

Use a high enough pillow to keep your head in the proper position (where the spine becomes straight on your back and on your side). A good rule of thumb is that it should be wide enough to support your head and neck when you are on your back and thick enough not to bend your neck when you are on your side. However, the pillow that fits you best depends on your physical condition at the time, so I recommend that you try several pillows if possible.

3. Warm your body and avoid getting cold around the neck

When you sleep in a cold environment, your blood flow deteriorates, and your muscles tend to stiffen. Also, the temperature drops the most at dawn in both  summer and winter. The neck is especially prone to getting cold since it is out of the quilt. In winter, protect your neck from the cold by wearing a scarf or neck warmer while sleeping. In summer, be careful not to overcool your neck with air conditioners.

4. Avoid sleeping in a dead drunk or overly tired state

It is easy to sleep wrong after drinking alcohol. There are two reasons for this. One is that the blood flow in the muscles tends to reduce. The other reason is that your senses are less sensitive when you are drunk, and the number of times you turn over in your sleep is drastically reduced. Also, when you are overly tired, the same thing that happens when you drink is prone to occur.

After drinking or when you are more tired than usual, it is recommended to supplement your mineral intake with an oral rehydration solution or supplements before going to bed. Mineral intake will prevent blood flow from decreasing, which will help prevent sleeping wrong.

Pain from sleeping wrong will go away naturally with rest, but it can be hard for a few days of having pain. Please remember the correct way to treat and heal sleeping wrong not to worry about your life or work.

It is also vital to keep good posture, massage, and stretch to relieve muscle tension and prevent body distortion to avoid sleeping wrong.

For prevention or aftercare, massage can help you to relieve a tension of your muscle, to remove misalignment of your body. Seitai-S-Shape in Tokyo (Shibuya) provides the highest quality massages for your pain, stiffness, and misalignment.