If you toss and turn at night due to dull or throbbing pain in your neck and shoulders, you may be surprised by the simplest solution for relief: your pillow.

Causes of Neck and Shoulder Pain While Sleeping

How do you sleep and what effect does it have on your body? When you sleep less than your body needs, it lowers your pain tolerance, which can make your neck and shoulders hurt even more. Getting enough sleep not only improves your tolerance for pain, it helps your body recover naturally from any aches and pains you may experience during the day. When you first lie down, use deep breathing to improve the oxygen flow to your muscles and to relax your body.

However, as you recline for rest, the weight of your own body can cause strain on your neck and shoulders, due to gravity and your reclining position.

To truly get a restful night’s sleep -and keep your neck and shoulders pain-free, you’ll need to support your body correctly in bed – and you’ll need your pillow to help you do that. Actually, experts recommend using two pillows rather than one, staggering the top pillow slightly backward from the bottom pillow. The top pillow supports your neck while the bottom pillow supports your shoulders during sleep.

Best Sleeping Positions To Ease Neck and Shoulder Pain

  • On Your Back – If you sleep on your back, support the natural curve of your neck by using a rounded pillow with a flatter pillow for your head. Place a pillow behind your thighs when sleeping on your back to take pressure off your spine.
  • On Your Side – If you sleep on your side, keep your spine straight by using a pillow that is higher under your neck than your head. Place a pillow between your legs when sleeping on your side to take pressure off your spine.

What about sleeping on your stomach? This sleeping position keeps your back arched and your neck turned to one side or the other, which can increase pain, strain your entire body, and give it less support than it needs during a good night’s sleep – at least eight hours.

Pillow Tips for Comfortable Sleep

  • Use a flatter, softer pillow and tuck a small neck roll into the same pillowcase
  • Buy a pillow with built-in neck support or an indentation for the head to rest
  • Hug a pillow, tucking it up high under your arm, to keep your top shoulder in an open position
  • Get a standard pillow made from memory foam or a feather pillow, which conform easily to the contour of your head and neck
  • A horseshoe-shaped pillow supports your neck and prevents your head from dropping to one side if you doze while sitting up
  • Avoid using a stiff or extra-high pillow so your neck won’t stay flexed during the night, which can result in morning pain or stiffness

How Sleep Quality Affects Pain

Researchers are finding the quality of your sleep will affect the severity of your pain. One study compares muscular and skeletal pain in 4,140 healthy men and women with and without sleeping problems, including difficulty falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, waking early in the mornings, and non-restorative sleep. The study finds people who report moderate to severe issues with multiple sleep problems are significantly more likely to develop chronic musculoskeletal pain after one year than those who report little or no problem with sleep. This suggests disturbances in your sleep can disrupt the muscle relaxation and healing that normally occur during healthy sleep patterns -and vice versa, since pain does disrupt a healthy night’s sleep.

Schedule an Appointment With Us Today 

Neck and shoulder pain shouldn’t stop you from living the life you want. Schedule your appointment with South Orange Chiropractic today. With years of experience, our experts will identify the root cause of your neck or shoulder pain and get it under control, so you can get your life back on track.