Waking up With Neck Pain

by Feb 7, 2022

Did you wake up with a stiff and painful neck this morning? Can you barely turn your head and all that happened was you went to sleep? Are you finding that you have to turn your entire body in order to look over your shoulder? Did you recently travel and sleep on a different mattress and pillows? You may have irritated some of the muscles and joints from the position you were sleeping in.

What Happened?

As we sleep at night, there are certain positions that predispose us to waking up feeling sore and stiff. This could be caused by sleeping on your stomach, which causes your head to be turned to one side. This shortens different muscles and lengthens others for the duration of your sleep. If you sleep anywhere from 6-8 hours a night, that can place a lot of stress on specific tissues and joints for an extended period of time. Another common cause could be from traveling and sleeping with different pillows and mattresses. Your body has become accustomed to certain levels of firmness with your mattress and pillows, and sleeping in a new environment can create a large enough change to have your body react negatively.

According to a study by Gordon et al., the best sleeping position to avoid waking neck and upper back symptoms is sleeping on your side. While on your side you should place a supportive pillow underneath your head so there is an equal distance between both ears and shoulders. This neutral position allows for improved sleeping posture and can be both therapeutic and preventative for waking neck complaints. The authors also found the side lying sleeping position was also the best for sleep quality ratings when compared to sleeping upright, on your back and on your stomach.

How Can We Fix This Situation?

At Moyer Total Wellness, we use a research based, 4-Step Approach to the conservative treatment of shoulder impingement that involves:

  1. Remove knots from muscles
  2. Lengthen tight tissues
  3. Mobilize joints
  4. Strengthen weak muscles

Whether you see a massage therapist, acupuncturist or chiropractor, we all use the same approach to care. However, we recommend starting with a chiropractor first, in order to get the correct diagnosis, figure out which tissues are responsible for the pain symptoms and receive the right treatment plan. Treatment with Dr. Dange Wolf, DC would involve lengthening the shortened muscles through various soft tissue techniques, teaching specific exercises and stretches to address the specific soft tissue problems and chiropractic adjustments may also be delivered to the neck and upper back in order to restore normal joint motion.

How Long Does It Take to Heal?

In most cases this condition resolves in just a few visits over a two to three week period. By addressing the soft tissues and fixated joints, we restore normal function and the pain/stiffness symptoms start to resolve. The chiropractor will then give you some helpful tips for sleeping positions that are less likely to cause this to recur as well as giving you some exercises/stretches to help alleviate the symptoms in between visits.

Dange Wolf, DC

Dange Wolf, DC

Author, Doctor of Chiropractic

Dr. Dange Wolf, DC was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and completed his undergraduate studies in Exercise Science at Western Oregon University where he was an All-American Midfielder on the lacrosse team. After completing his undergraduate studies, he went on to attend the Chiropractic program at the University of Western States in Northeast Portland, where he graduated summa cum laude. In early March of 2021 he moved to Lakewood, Colorado and has been treating a wide variety of musculoskeletal complaints ever since.


Donnelly, J. M., Simons, D. G., Fernandez de las Penas, C., Finnegan, M., & Freeman, J. (2019). Travell, Simons & Simons’ myofascial pain and dysfunction: The trigger point manual (3rd ed.). Wolters Kluwer Health.

Gordon, S., Grimmer, K., & Trott, P. (2007). Sleep position, age, gender, sleep quality and waking cervico-thoracic symptoms. The Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice, 5(1). doi: 10.46743/1540-580X/2007.1134


Photo Credit

Canva by tommaso79

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