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Neck Stiffness and Pain When Waking Up

author image Kay Ireland
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.
Neck Stiffness and Pain When Waking Up
Neck pain can have a variety of causes. Photo Credit Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

You may attribute a stiff neck in the morning to nothing more than a poor night's sleep, when really, the sensation may be the symptom of a variety of causes. Waking up with a stiff and aching neck can disrupt your day, especially if it lingers. By understanding the cause of your stiff neck and the various treatment options available to you, you can get a good night's sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and limber for a better day.


Different individuals can experience morning neck pain in different ways. You may simply have trouble maneuvering your neck when you get out of bed in the morning, a symptom that often improves throughout the day. Your neck pain may also be associated with a tension headache, where you feel pain in your head and your neck simultaneously. You may also experience what feels like a knot in the back of your neck that makes it difficult for you to move your head. Take note of your symptoms and their severity so your doctor can make an accurate diagnosis.


Just as your neck pain can have a variety of symptoms, it can also have a variety of causes. A visit with your doctor can give greater insight into the actual cause of your neck pain. It could be anything from a muscle spasm that causes a tight knot in your neck, to poor sleeping position and a lack of support from your pillow, to the beginning symptoms of osteoarthritis or a tension headache. Since the cause of your neck pain will rely heavily on your daily activities, sleeping habits and individual symptoms, your doctor should be the one to give you a proper diagnosis.


Take a hot shower in the morning. The heat and steam from the water can often help to loosen tight muscles so your neck feels better when starting the day. Stretching your neck in the morning can also help to restore flexibility in the neck; try looking side to side and up and down before you get out of bed. If neck pain lingers, it's fine to take an over-the-counter pain medication according to package directions. If your neck pain is disrupting your daily life, your doctor may suggest an analgesic, such as naproxen, to help relieve pain on a long-term basis.


You can help stop your neck pain before you go to bed each night. Invest in a support mattress and pillow so that your head, neck and spine are properly aligned during sleep. Visiting a chiropractor can also help you find long-term relief and prevent future stiffness. If your neck pain is the result of a tension headache or osteoarthritis, talk to your doctor about preventative medications that can help improve your quality of life. Finally, performing daily flexibility exercises can help you maintain the movement in your neck; yoga and daily stretching before bed can help relieve tension and prevent stiffness.

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