If you suffer from neck pain, you may wonder if lying down makes it better or worse. The answer depends on several factors relating to the position of your neck and spine. In some cases, lying down can alleviate neck pain, while in other cases it may exacerbate it. This article explores the pros and cons of lying down when you have a sore neck.
When Lying Down Helps
Lying down with proper neck support can take pressure off sore muscles and reduce inflammation associated with neck injuries or conditions like pinched nerves. The key is maintaining your neck in a neutral position – not bent up, down or to the side.
If you have a mattress and pillow that conform to your head and neck, this allows muscles to relax into that support instead of having to hold your head up like you do when sitting or standing. Just like other parts of the sore body appreciate not bearing weight in a prone position, so does the neck. The break from fighting gravity can offer relief.
Certain lying down positions may work better than others for neck pain:
Back: Lying flat on the back with a pillow under the head for support allows the neck to rest evenly. This avoids any twisting or angling that causes extra tension or discomfort. Pay attention to pillow height and fill-material to provide a supportive, contouring surface for the curvature of the neck.
Side: Lying on your side in the fetal position with a firm pillow between the knees also prevents the head from tilting at an odd angle for long periods. A slim pillow under the neck keeps it lengthened neutrally.
When Lying Down Hurts
Unfortunately, lying down isn’t a cure-all solution for every neck problem. In some cases, it can make pain feel more intense or last longer:
Poor Support: A sagging mattress that fails to keep the neck, head and spine aligned often worsens neck problems when lying down for hours overnight. If there are major gaps between support points, muscles and joints bear an uneven burden.
Muscle Cramping: Sleeping in one position without moving for extended periods occasionally triggers muscle cramps or spasms which feel exceptionally painful around the compressed nerves of the delicate neck area. Changing positions while sleeping may help.
Nerve Compression: Disk problems, fractures, bone spurs and other anatomical issues in the spine commonly contribute to neck pain. Gravity no longer pulls these areas apart evenly when lying down. The increased proximity of structures can pinch nerves, resulting in symptoms flaring up at night or in the morning.
The impact of lying down on neck discomfort depends greatly on the source of the problem and ways the body adapts to prone positions overnight. Paying attention to pillow support and being willing to shift positions while resting often influences whether bedtime eases or aggravates pain. Consult a doctor if symptoms fail to improve with postural changes and conservative self-care remedies. Proper diagnosis is key to appropriate, lasting relief.