Physiotherapy for Neck Pain Articles
Relief for Neck Pain After Waking Up - Causes and Solutions

Relief for Neck Pain After Waking Up - Causes and Solutions

Neck pain after sleeping can significantly impact a person's quality of life. Severe neck and shoulder pain, for instance, are associated with poor health perception due to lower sleep quality. This can lead to mood disturbances and reduced quality of life.

In this article, we'll help you understand the various causes of neck pain after waking up, provide effective remedies to help alleviate this common issue, and also offer strategies to prevent neck pain from continuously disrupting your mornings.

Why Do You Have a Sore Neck After Waking Up?

Many individuals find themselves waking up with discomfort in their neck area, and understanding the reasons behind it can be the first step towards relieving neck pain. Here are some possible causes of a sore and stiff neck upon waking up:

Stomach Sleeping as Your Preferred Sleeping Position

Sleeping on your stomach is a common cause of waking up with a sore or stiff neck. Although comfortable to some, this sleep position forces your neck to be turned to one side for an extended period, leading to strain on the neck muscles and misalignment of the spine. The unnatural position can cause pain that disrupts sleep and leads to sleeping problems. Over time, this can contribute to chronic neck and shoulder issues.

Using Uncomfortable Pillows

Uncomfortable pillows can cause a sore or stiff neck upon waking up by creating pressure points and lack of support, leading to strain on the neck muscles and misalignment of the spine. Unsupportive or poor-quality pillows can cause neck pain and muscle tension, emphasising the importance of choosing the right pillow to alleviate neck and shoulder pain. If the pillow is too high or too low, it can strain the muscles and ligaments in your neck, leading to pain and stiffness upon waking up.

Sudden Movements while Sleeping

Sudden movements, such as sitting up quickly or tossing and turning in bed, can strain your neck muscles, leading to a sore or stiff neck upon waking up. These uncontrollable sleep habits can cause the neck muscles to tighten involuntarily, resulting in muscle pain and stiffness.

Previous Injury

A previous injury can lead to a sore or stiff neck upon waking up due to the impact it has on the neck muscles and overall neck health. Traumas such as car accidents, sports injuries, whiplash, and conditions like arthritis can cause neck stiffness and pain. This can be due to the strain on the neck muscles, misalignment of the spine, and other issues affecting the complex network of bones, muscles, ligaments, disks, and nerves in the neck.

Medical Conditions

Medical conditions like osteoarthritis and nerve compression can cause a sore or stiff neck upon waking up due to their impact on the neck muscles and spine. These conditions can create pressure points, strain the neck muscles, and misalign the spine, contributing to morning soreness and stiffness. Here are some medical conditions that can be the reason why your neck hurts in the morning:

Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis can lead to the deterioration of the neck joints, causing stiffness and discomfort, especially in the morning.

Nerve Compression: Nerve compression, such as a pinched nerve or herniated cervical disk, can result in neck pain and stiffness, affecting the ability to move the neck comfortably when waking up.

Effective Ways for Neck Pain Relief

Addressing neck pain after waking up requires effective remedies that target the root causes of the discomfort. Here are effective ways to relieve neck pain:

Using Over-the-Counter Painkillers

One approach to finding relief is through the use of over-the-counter painkillers. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen can help reduce inflammation and alleviate mild to moderate neck pain. Adhering to the suggested dosage and seeking advice from a healthcare provider for this type of drug's applicability to your condition should be done if you have any pre-existing health issues or are using other medications.

Heat or Cold Therapy

Another method for relieving morning neck pain is through the application of heat or cold therapy. Heat can aid in relaxing tense muscles and enhancing blood flow to the affected area, whereas cold therapy can diminish inflammation and alleviate the pain. Alternating between heat and cold applications can provide a balanced approach to managing neck discomfort upon waking.

Gentle Stretching or Self-Massaging

In addition to medication and thermal therapies, gentle stretching and self-massaging techniques can help alleviate neck pain after waking up. Simple stretches that target the neck and shoulder muscles can promote flexibility and reduce tension.

Self-massaging with gentle circular motions can also help release tightness and improve circulation in the neck area. These techniques can be incorporated into a morning routine along with observing gentle exercises such as the ones described here to help ease discomfort and enhance mobility.

Pain Assessment and Activity Modification

Pain assessment and activity modification are also crucial components of managing neck pain after waking up. Understanding the specific triggers and aggravating factors can guide individuals in modifying their daily activities to minimise neck strain. This may involve adjusting work ergonomics, posture, and repetitive movements to reduce the likelihood of experiencing morning neck pain.


Physiotherapists are trained to assess and treat musculoskeletal conditions, including neck pain. Through targeted exercises, manual therapy, and posture correction, physiotherapy aims to improve neck mobility, strengthen supporting muscles, and address any underlying biomechanical issues contributing to the discomfort.

At Phoenix Rehab Singapore, we believe that your well-being is worth prioritising, so we're here to help you get your body back to its optimum state through our evidence-based practices. We offer comprehensive programmes personalised to your needs and the underlying causes of the discomfort that you're experiencing.

A tailored neck pain physiotherapy programme that our multidisciplinary team can curate for you, for instance, can provide long-term relief and prevent recurring morning neck pain. Contact us today and start your wellness journey now.

Strategies to Prevent Neck Pain

In addition to seeking relief from morning neck pain, it's essential to proactively implement strategies that can help prevent its recurrence. Here are some suggested ways to prevent neck pain and avoid its recurrence:

Check Your Sleeping Positions

Checking sleeping positions can help prevent neck pain by maintaining proper spinal alignment and providing adequate support for the neck and head.

The best sleeping positions for neck pain are on your side or back, using a rounded pillow for back sleepers and a higher pillow under the neck for side sleepers. This helps to keep the cervical spine in a neutral position, reducing strain on the muscles and preventing muscle spasms.

It's important to note that sleeping on your stomach should be avoided, as it can strain the neck and lead to discomfort upon waking up.

Find the Right Pillow

Finding the right pillow can help prevent neck pain by maintaining proper spinal alignment and providing adequate support for the neck and head.

Sleeping on a firm pillow, for instance, may help improve spinal alignment and prevent pain or stiffness in the neck and shoulders. A medium-firm pillow is recommended for optimal support and comfort, striking a balance between firm and soft pillows.

Memory foam pillows, on the other hand, easily conform to the shape of the neck, while feather pillows can be reshaped for personalised comfort. Using flatter, rounded, or body pillows can offer support for different sleeping positions, such as side or back sleeping.

Keep Temperature at a Comfortable Level

Keeping the temperature at a comfortable level while sleeping can help prevent neck pain by preventing muscle tension and stiffness caused by cold temperatures. Cold weather can contribute to neck pain due to various reasons such as illness, poor posture, and the body's natural reaction to cold air.

When to See a Doctor for Your Morning Neck Pain

While many cases of neck pain after waking up can be managed with self-care and lifestyle adjustments, there are instances where professional medical attention is necessary. Here are some conditions in which you should seek immediate medical care for your neck pain:

If your morning neck pain is severe, spreads down your arms or legs, or is accompanied by headache, weakness, numbness, or tingling;

If the pain is the result of an injury such as a motor vehicle accident, diving accident, or fall, immediate care may be necessary.

If you experience chronic neck pain, especially if it's accompanied by other symptoms such as stiffness, decreased mobility, or headaches.

Early intervention and appropriate medical care can prevent potential complications that may be brought by these conditions and facilitate the healing process.

Final Words

Neck pain after waking up can significantly impact your daily comfort and functionality, but it doesn't have to be a persistent issue. Take proactive steps towards finding relief and preventing its recurrence through self-care strategies, physiotherapy, or lifestyle modifications.

Your neck health is a vital component of your overall well-being, and prioritising it can contribute to a more comfortable and fulfilling lifestyle. Remember to prioritise your neck health, seek professional guidance when needed, and make informed choices that support your overall well-being. Say goodbye to morning neck pain and embrace the potential for restful and rejuvenating mornings.

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