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A Bad Night’s Sleep and that Pain in the Neck

By Dr. Molly Casey

Waking Up with Neck Pain

Have you ever awakened and can’t turn your neck? Or maybe feel a twinge during a workout and find yourself unable to look side to side. Or realize one day it’s a real struggle to look over your shoulder trying to check your blind spot while driving in the car? If you’ve ever experienced a significant neck stiffness, pain, or loss of range of motion, you know just how much it affects your daily life -- and you know it affects you more than you ever imagined. But what’s happening -- and how do you fix it?


Proper anatomy and structure of the spine includes a lordotic curve in the cervical spine (neck). If you look at the neck from a side view of an X-ray with the person’s chin facing to the right, there should be a nice backward C-shaped curve to the spine.

The lordotic curve of the cervical spine is important and there for a reason. The curves help absorb the shock and facilitate proper motion and function of the spine. The better the spine moves, the healthier it is. The healthier your spine is, the healthier your nervous system is. The healthier your nervous system is, the greater overall health you experience in your daily life.

Daily Posture and Support

Proper posture during your day and proper support in the night during sleep are imperative to the health and structure of the lordotic curve of the neck. By participating in the common mistakes below, you contribute to the chances of waking up and not being able to move the neck from side to side and the unbearable “oh my gosh, what have I done!?!?” experience.

During the day: Some of the most common postural patterns that disturb the proper health of the neck curve is rounded shoulders and forward head carriage. Think sitting at a desk, shoulders slightly or significantly rounded forward and down -- a bit of forward slouching if you will -- and your chin either tipped slightly down or jutted out, often while you look down at a cell phone or computer screen.

At night: The first crime of improper neck support is sleeping on your stomach. When you sleep on your stomach, the curve is not supported; it’s also contorted because of needing to turn the neck to one side or the other. If one is a back or side sleeper, often the pillow used is too flat or too firm with little contour to meet the demands of a healthy curve.

Tips: Do posture checks during your day once an hour in order to train yourself to better support the health of your spine and your neck curve. Pretend you have a string pulling you up from the very top of your head; your shoulders will naturally fall down and back. This is the ideal, and this small trick will help immensely.

At night, do not sleep on your stomach. Also, invest in a contoured pillow that is specifically designed to support the curve of the cervical spine and use it every night.

Get Adjusted

Regular chiropractic adjustments support the health and function of the spine. This includes the cervical curvature. I recommend using chiropractic regularly as a supportive measure -- a basic component to your healthcare routine. It’s easier to support a properly running machine regularly than it is to fix one that’s already broken down. With that being said, chiropractic adjustments help repair the kinks and malfunctions that occur along the way. If you find yourself in one of those spots, see a chiropractor as soon as possible. The adjustments can restore motion to the spinal joints, help decrease any inflammation or spasms, and increase the range of motion. As a side effect of all the restoration of health, guess what will decrease? The pain.

If you can’t check your blind spot while driving, if you woke up and can’t seem to turn your head, or over the years you’ve simply noticed a decrease in the range of motion in your neck, stop into The Joint Chiropractic and let its chiropractors help you help yourself and get you on the road to optimal health!

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