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  • Tyler Landgren, DPT

I Slept Funny

It has happened to all of us. You wake up and try and turn your head and can’t because of the pain. Sometimes when it is really bad you even start getting a headache and even experience pain down toward your shoulder blades. Most of the time these symptoms will resolve on their own in a few days, here we will talk about how to get better a little faster.

We spend almost 1/3 of our lives sleeping, so we need to make sure that we are sleeping in a position that will not compromise our necks. The best neck positioning while sleeping is typically just neutral, without it being bent too high or too low.

Now let’s look at something to do after that inevitable rough night of sleep.

Use heat

Heat is usually a good thing to help those tight and stiff muscles. A heat pack or a warm shower can be good choices. Use the heat for 10-15 minutes.


If pain allows trying some gentle neck stretches can be very beneficial. Stretching should be performed to your tolerance and you should feel a gentle pull or stretch with avoiding sharp pain. Here are some good stretches to try:

Upper trap stretch

In a seated or standing position bring your hand on the side you wish to stretch behind your back. Place your other hand on top of your head and gently pull your head to the side, away from the side you wish to stretch.

Levator Scapulae Stretch

Begin sitting and grasp the side of the chair with the arm of the side that is to be stretched. Rotate your head away from the side that is to be stretched. Grasp the opposite side of your head with your other hand, and gently pull your head down toward your shoulder.

Posterior Muscle Strengthening

Our posterior and upper back muscles between the shoulder blades help maintain our posture. Proper posture can improve our neck pain by taking away some of the strain our neck muscles have to do trying to keep our head up all day.

Scapular retractions

Begin by sitting with your back straight and your arms at your side. Slowly pinch your shoulder blades together. Return to starting position. Perform this exercise 15-20 repetitions multiple times a day.

Chin tuck

Start by sitting or standing with back straight. While staring straight forward, pull your head backwards using the muscles in the front of your neck. Keep your head level with the floor at all times. Avoid tilting your head either upward or downward while pulling backwards.

Tips for Sleeping

1. Avoid using pillows that are too high or too stiff that would keep your neck flexed forward overnight.

2. Also avoid a pillow that is too flat. You should not feel that you are extending your neck backward while sleeping.

If you are experiencing neck pain and these tips have not resolved the issue come in and see us at Wasatch Physical Therapy.

#neckpain #sleeping #stretching #exercises

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