When this “I Just Slept Wrong On My Neck” Becomes That “When Will My Neck Pain Go Away?”

Neck pain is one of the most common reasons I see people in my office. Patients often say,


“I don't know why my neck started hurting…I think I must have slept wrong.”


“My neck hurts worse in the morning when I get up...it’s just really stiff.”


“My neck is fine in the morning but gets worse throughout the day.”


“I hear all this popping and cracking in my neck when I turn my head. It’s kind of sharp when I turn to check my blind spot.”


Even though every single person has the common complaint of neck pain, the root cause of their neck pain is different in each of their complaints.


Let me walk you through my brain when I hear these complaints:


“I think I slept wrong on my neck” - Most of the time this complaint is going to be related to a muscle strain, specifically the levator scapulae muscle. One end of the muscle attaches on the cervical vertebrae closest to the base of the skull and the other end attaches to the shoulder blade. I could share more detailed information but this blog is not intended to give an anatomy lesson! 


Solution = hands-on physical therapy to help the muscles relax and stretching to restore flexibility


“My neck hurts the most in the morning but feels better as I start moving around.” - This tends to be related to joint stiffness aka zygapophyseal joint dysfunction aka facet joint syndrome. What this means is that the joint between one level of the vertebrae and the next level of the vertebrae is not moving as well as it should. The joint lacks mobility; therefore, it feels really stiff like it’s stuck and doesn’t want to move.


Solution = hands-on physical therapy to improve joint mobility; self-mobilizations to maintain neck range of motion independently at home


“I don’t have neck pain until the afternoon or evening...it goes away by the next morning.” - Neck pain that worsens throughout the day is often related to muscle tension, poor posture, or stress. Think how your neck and shoulders feel after sitting in meetings or at your computer all day. Even if you are enjoying your day, the muscle tension from sitting, listening, learning, researching, and clicking on your keyboard can wreak havoc on the cervical muscles.


Solution = ergonomic workstation for improving posture; 1-3 minute stretch breaks every 45-55 minutes; diaphragmatic breathing for overall body relaxation; strength training to restore postural control


“I have sharp popping and cracking in my neck that limits me when I try to turn my head to check my blind spot while driving.” - This may be related to facet joint syndrome, as mentioned earlier, or it could be caused by arthritic changes in the bones of the cervical spine. 


Solution = This can be a little tricky. If it’s  determined that the symptoms are related to facet joint syndrome as mentioned earlier, then I would proceed as I previously mentioned. If degenerative or arthritic changes are present, then I may need to delve a little deeper into restoring joint mobility while also avoiding increased stress on the joint

I’ve mentioned 4 scenarios along with 4 possible solutions. This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat anyone. I am merely sharing information about what I have seen in my office and the corresponding possible solution. If you are experiencing neck pain or any other pain, I recommend contacting a local healthcare provider for at least a consultation to learn more about what your root cause of the problem is, what solutions are available to fix it, and how long it’s going to take to fix it.

If you aren’t sure what your next step is, I recommend contacting my office at 262-771-0404 so we can start a conversation and keep you moving away from pain and forward to relief.


To Your Best Health,

Dr. Jeanette


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