neck pain

Best sleeping position for neck pain

If you’re dealing with neck discomfort, the best positions for sleep are on your back or side. These positions are both less stressful on your spine than sleeping on your stomach.

It may be difficult to change your sleeping position since your preferred position is often determined early in life.

However, over time, you’ll become more comfortable as the new position becomes familiar.

Most people move around in the middle of the night, so having extra pillows around can help you stay comfortable even if you shift.

Sleeping on your back helps maintain your spine’s natural curves. You can use a thinner pillow in this position than you would when sleeping on your side. Your head position should be only slightly raised so that it’s at a similar angle as when you’re standing. Using a memory foam pillow can help support your head or neck.

Sleeping on your side is one of the best ways to keep your head neutral, with your chin straight ahead. When sleeping in this position, it’s a good idea to use a pillow high enough to keep your neck neutral but not so high that your upper ear is forced toward your shoulder.

If you’re dealing with neck pain, it’s a good idea to avoid sleeping on your stomach. In this position, your head is forced to one side for hours at a time. This faulty alignment can put excess stress on your neck.

neck pain


Two types of headaches that cause neck pain:

(1) Tension headaches

A tension headache is the most common. When someone has a tension headache, they may feel like a band is squeezing around their forehead, putting pressure on the head. The pain is usually all over the head. Some people also feel pain in the back of the neck and their shoulders when they have a tension headache.

People with high-stress levels often report having tension headaches. Poor posture and repetitive movements can also contribute to tension headaches.

There are two types of tension headaches. Episodic headaches often develop as a result of stress. Once the stressful situation is over, the headache usually eases up. Chronic headaches frequently occur, sometimes on a daily basis.

(2) Migraines

This is another common headache type. While the pain from a tension headache is often dull, migraines typically cause throbbing pain. The pain is usually located on one side of the head and might be in the neck, too.

neck pain


Neck surgery usually is considered a treatment for neck pain only when all other approaches have failed. Most doctors would rather encourage a patient first try treating their neck pain using medicine, rest, and physical therapy.

If cervical degeneration causes myelopathy (spinal cord dysfunction), radiculopathy (dysfunction of nerves to the neck or arms), or abnormal neck motion, surgery may be necessary. The surgical goal is to reduce pain and restore spinal stability.

neck pain


Along with a complete medical history and physical exam, diagnostic procedures for neck pain may include:

  • Blood tests. These tests can help diagnose underlying inflammatory disease.
  • X-ray. A test that uses electromagnetic energy beams to make images of bones onto film.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This procedure uses large magnets and a computer to make detailed images of organs and structures within the body. MRI can often identify damage or disease of internal structures within our joints, or in a surrounding ligament or muscle. 
  • Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan). An imaging procedure uses X-rays and computer technology to make images of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
  • Electromyogram (EMG). A test to evaluate nerve function.
neck pain


Most neck pain is associated with poor posture combined with age-related wear and tear. To help prevent neck pain, keep your head centered over your spine. Some simple changes in your daily routine may help. Try to:

  • Use good posture. When standing and sitting, be sure your shoulders are in a straight line over your hips and your ears are directly over your shoulders.
  • Take frequent breaks. If you travel long distances or work long hours at your computer, get up, move around and stretch your neck and shoulders.
  • Adjust your desk, chair and computer so that the monitor is at eye level. Knees should be slightly lower than hips. Use your chair’s armrests.
  • Avoid tucking the phone between your ear and shoulder when you talk. Use a headset or speakerphone instead.
  • Avoid carrying heavy bags with straps over your shoulder. The weight can strain your neck.
  • Sleep in a good position. Your head and neck should be aligned with your body. Use a small pillow under your neck. Use orthopedic neck pillow.


Neck pain is a common complaint. Neck muscles can be strained from poor posture — whether it’s leaning over your computer or hunching over your workbench. Osteoarthritis also is a common cause of neck pain.

Rarely, neck pain can be a symptom of a more serious problem. Seek medical care if your neck pain is accompanied by numbness or loss of strength in your arms or hands or if you have shooting pain into your shoulder or down your arm.

neck pain


A stiff neck is a common problem that a person can usually treat with home remedies and prevention strategies. It usually results from injuries caused by whiplash, sleeping awkwardly, having a poor posture, or stress.

Neck pain is not typically a sign of a more serious issue. Do not ignore it, however, if it comes on suddenly and accompanies other symptoms.

A stiff neck is generally not a cause for alarm. However, see a doctor if:

  • The stiffness is accompanied by other symptoms, such as a fever, a headache, or irritability.
  • The stiffness does not go away within a few days and after trying home treatments such as NSAIDs and gentle stretching.
  • The pain is severe.
neck pain


Some ways that stiff neck can develop while sleeping include:

  • Awkward angle. The head or neck might settle at an awkward angle for an extended period of time while sleeping, which can stretch and stress muscles, ligaments, and joints beyond their normal limits.
  • Sudden movement. Perhaps from rolling over or reacting to a dream, sudden neck movements might occur while sleeping that can strain or sprain the neck.
  • Pre-existing injury. Some injuries that happen while awake, such as whiplash, may take many hours before pain and stiffness develop later while sleeping.

Most commonly, the root cause of a stiff neck is a neck strain, which could be due to a muscle strain or ligament sprain. Several other causes could exist, such as facet joint osteoarthritis or cervical degenerative disc disease.

neck pain


On average, artificial disc replacement recovery time takes about 3-5 weeks; however, artificial disc replacement recovery time varies from patient to patient. Many patients can return to light activities and desk work within 1 week, but a few may not be at full activity level for up to 3 months. Importantly, since the vertebrae do not need to fuse together after artificial disc replacement surgery, recovery time is shorter than it is for spinal fusion surgery.

neck pain


Common causes of left-sided neck pain are:

  • Inflammation. This is the body’s response to injury or infection. It can cause pain, swelling, stiffness, numbness, and other symptoms.
  • Muscle strain. If you spend hours leaning forward at your computer, cradling a phone between your right ear and your shoulder, or otherwise stressing your neck muscles, you can end up with pain on the left side of your neck.
  • Pinched nerve. A pinched nerve (cervical radiculopathy) occurs when a nerve in the neck becomes irritated or squeezed as it branches out from the spinal cord. If it’s on the left side, it may also cause numbness and pain in the left shoulder.
  • Whiplash. You can get whiplash when your head is forcefully thrust back and forth. This can happen from a football tackle, a vehicle accident, or a similar violent incident.
  • Acute torticollis. Acute torticollis occurs when the muscles in your neck suddenly contract, causing your head to twist to one side.
neck pain


It is generally a good idea to see a doctor if:

  • Pain lasts longer than two weeks.
  • Pain is severe and does not respond to initial treatments, such as heat application or over-the-counter medications.
  • Shooting, sharp pain and/or numbness and tingling are spreading to other areas of the body, such as from the neck to the shoulder.
  • Neck pain interferes with basic mobility such as turning the head, standing, walking, or other everyday movements so much that daily activities become very difficult.

In rare cases, neck pain can indicate a medical emergency. If pain includes dizziness, confusion, fever, issues with balance and coordination, prompt medical attention should be sought.