Why is neck pain worse at night?

Why is neck pain worse at night?

Neck pain and back pain for that matter can fluctuate throughout the day, it can often be worse first thing in the morning rather than at night. It does depend on what is causing the pain in the neck. 

I was chatting to a client this week called Pete who came to us around 4 weeks ago with a stiff neck, he woke up 2 days previously and his neck was completely locked up. He assumed that he must have slept funny and the neck muscles had gone in to spasm. 

It had happened a few times before and he was telling me he had tried 4 different pillows in four months, does that sound familiar to you? No matter which one he tried he couldn’t get comfortable at night and his sleep was really suffering because of it. 

If you have suffered with back or neck pain and it affects your sleep it then starts to have a knock on effect to the rest of your day and week. It can impact your home life with the family and also your productivity at work. 

What starts off as a small niggle in the neck whilst at your desk can really develop into a chronic issue. 

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Case Study

Pete works up in London and does a desk job, he is in the office 3 days per week and at home 2 days. He finds that at the office he doesn’t have a permanent desk which means that the setup isn’t as good when he is at home. 

This is common with a lot of our clients that commute to London, since covid, hot desking is now very popular as offices try to reduce office space, but this can cause issues with your ergonomic setup. 

Pete was really struggling with neck pain at the end of the day after he had been working up in London which meant that by the time he got off the train his head was so heavy that he needed to lie down as soon as he got in. 

The reason this was happening was because he had a forward head carriage, this is where the head moves forward and can cause pressure to build up on the cervical discs as well as the muscles surrounding the shoulders, these are the upper trapezius muscles. 

Because Pete’s head had been forward for so long it was putting pressure on his C5/6 disc which was bulging, this then presses on the nerve. As the day went on the pressure increased a lot in the disc causing Pete to be in more pain. 

He started to develop pins and needles in his hand as well on one side which is due to the nerve compression in the neck from the disc. 

The disc will rarely bulge straight back into the spinal cord, this can affect both sides of the neck and also give pain in both arms. His was just one side. 

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How to sleep with neck pain?

We talked Pete through a simple routine to get him back to sleeping properly so that when he got into bed he could let his neck relax rather than affect his sleep. 

  1. Ensure the pillow is firm and supports the neck so the shoulder is level with the neck, when someone looks at you there should be a straight line from your nose to your notch between your collar bones. I recommend a memory foam pillow, don’t change it for at least two months to allow your body to adapt 
  2. Lie on your side-preferably the opposite side to the pain-this allows the neck to relax and be supported on the pillow
  3. Don’t hunch your shoulders up-let them relax down towards the base of your body and take pressure off the neck 

Pete is doing really well now, we also used cervical decompression therapy to take pressure off his neck which has helped to alleviate his pain in the arm. Plus some other rehab exercises which you can watch here. 

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If you have anyone who is suffering with neck pain please share this blog with them and ask them to reach out to us if they need some more specific help. 

If you do know someone who wants more advice, please send them our details. You can send them this assessment as well to diagnose their back pain. It is a great tool to understand where your back pain is coming from, it is free and takes 60 seconds. Click here for assessment

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