Waking up with neck pain? Try this.

How often do we wake up in the morning with stiffness and pain in the neck? You are not alone. This is one of the most common complain of most people but most people just think it’s just a sign of ageing and that they have to live with it. However, this is not true. You need not have to wake up every morning with this pain and stiffness.

Choose the right pillow
The most common cause of neck stiffness in the morning is our pillows. Most of the pillows do not support our necks properly. Everyone’s neck is unique in terms of the length, thickness and muscle tension. Thus, unless there is a pillow that is individually customized to your neck, your pillow will tend to be the cause of the stiffness.

Here's why

This is because as we sleep at night, our necks need to be well supported in a neutral position so as to give our muscles a break.

  • If your pillow is too high, your neck will be in flexed position, which puts a fair degree of stretch to your muscles, giving you an ache when you wake up in the morning.
  • When your pillow is too low, your neck is not supported and the joints between your vertebrae in your neck will compress onto each other, causing the stiffness in the morning when you wake up. 
  • If your pillow is too soft, your muscles will be working through the night to help stabilise your neck. The next morning you will wake up with sore and achy muscles.

Contoured pillow? Try this first.
The best way to prevent morning stiffness and pain is to have your neck supported as you sleep. But before you start running off to get a contoured pillow, try this little towel roll trick first to determine whether a contoured pillow will of be any assistance to you.

First of all, you would need to determine whether which type of a sleeper are you: side sleeper, back sleeper or turner in bed. Once you have determined the type of sleeper you are, take a bath towel and try the following:

Side Sleeper – Roll up the bath towel to a thickness of about 2 to 2½ inches (depending on the thickness of your neck). While lying down, your shoulder should be at the bottom of your pillow. Place the towel roll under the side of your neck to support your neck. Ensure that your head is nicely rested on the pillow. This should support your neck and place it in a neutral posture.
Back Sleeper – Roll the bath towel to a thickness of about ½ to 1½ inches. Have your shoulders on the lower border of the pillow and place the towel roll behind your neck. Your head should not be in an extended posture.
Turner in bed – Have the towel roll rolled up to about 1 to 2 inches and place it under your neck. This should attempt to give some form of support to your neck as you turn from side to side to lying on your back.

You should feel more comfortable immediately upon using the towel roll. If you don’t, chances are the roll is either too thick or too thin. Adjust accordingly until you are comfortable. To prevent the towel from moving through the night, you can place the towel roll under your pillowcase or may even want to sew it to your pillow. If this works well, then consider getting a contoured pillow.

What if the stiffness and pain persist?
If the pain and stiffness still persist, it is highly likely that you have been suffering from this for a long time. It would be beneficial for you to seek a few sessions of treatment with a physiotherapist to get your muscles released and joints mobilized before you feel the relief. Also, paying a conscious effort in watch your posture throughout the day would help prevent the stiffness and pain from developing the next morning.


You can easily request for a physiotherapy or fitness appointment through any of the 3 convenient ways below with your preferred date, time and clinic location. Our staff will be happy to help allocate you to the first available appointment slot that best fits your convenience.

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