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Could your sleeping habits be hurting your neck?

Do you wake in the morning with a sore, stiff neck? Do the muscles ache and twinge and take a little time to loosen up?

You’re not alone – neck pain is common and will affect most people at some stage in their lives.

For most people though, a stiff neck is painful but non-threatening. The soft tissues can become injured or tense. The joints may be inflamed. Tautness can result. A sore, stiff neck — particularly on waking — can signal poor posture and sleeping position, the wrong pillow, osteoarthritis (wear and tear), or even stress.

Do you lie on your side, back or front?

The latter is one of the worst positions. Sleeping with your head twisted to the side places a lot of strain on the vertebrae in your neck. While reading this, turn your head to the right. See how far it naturally rotates?

Place your left hand on your left cheek and gently push. Can you feel the increased tension in your neck? This extra force is exerted for many hours when you sleep on your front, and can often be the cause of neck and back pain. Side or back sleeping is better.

Your pillow may also be to blame. The main function of your pillow is to support your neck and keep it aligned with the rest of your spine. Selecting the right one can have a significant impact on your sleep quality and neck pain. It should support your spinal curves and keep you comfortable. If you find yourself suffering from persistent neck pain, ask us for help and advice. We can assess your pain and provide appropriate care. We can also assess your sleeping posture, and help you to find a pillow that works for you.

Stiffness can occur for a number of reasons; while it’s not normally serious, it’s important to know when urgent investigation is required. When neck stiffness is accompanied by trauma, fever, nausea or vomiting, unexplained fatigue, confusion, dizziness, or a new headache, it may indicate a serious underlying condition. While rare, these symptoms can point to fracture, meningitis, infection, or a tumour.

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