One of the most common complaints from patients that come into our office is pain when waking up in the morning. Sometimes the pain can be described as a “crick” or “kink” in the neck. The result is not only pain but an overall decrease in the range of motion of the neck. So, how does this happen?
The main cause of neck pain upon waking is poor sleeping position.
People who sleep on their stomachs typically have the most issues with their necks because of poor positioning. When sleeping on the stomach from 6-8 hours each night the head must be rotated to the left or right when laying it on the pillow because obviously there is no hole in the mattress for your face like when you lay on a massage table. So, imagine standing or sitting with your head rotated in either direction for up to 8 hours. Eventually, it’s going to hurt. Here’s a video we did about best sleeping position.
Another way to develop the “kink” or “crick” is by sleeping on more than one pillow or a pillow that is too large. This will cause the neck to either be pushed forward or to the side too much where it is not aligned with the rest of the spine resulting in misalignment, muscle pulling and pain.
What does it mean to have a “kink” or “crick”?
This is a term used when the bones, also known as vertebrae, in the neck are severely misaligned and putting pressure on the nerves leading to pain and decreased motion. Some people like to refer to this as a “pinched nerve”. The misalignment of the neck will also causing muscle pulling over a period of time that can lead to spasm and inflammation resulting in pain.
How does the “kink” get fixed?
As chiropractors we help to treat the problem in the neck with an adjustment or manipulation. This will allow the bones to be restored to their normal position in the neck which results in reduced nerve pressure. After the first adjustment, range of motion and pain will be improved but inflammation is still taking place. The use of ice for periods of 15-20 minutes at a time will help with decreasing swelling and pain between adjustments. We recommend that the patient stay as closely as they can to their treatment plan that was made by the chiropractor to help alleviate their pain and symptoms as quickly as possible.
Once the neck pain dramatically reduced and overall range of motion is restores then it is very important to start a cervical strengthening program. More often than not, most patients believe that stretching the neck will help to reduce tightness when the opposite should be done. Tightness is a sign of weakness of the muscle from being pulled in a bad position. If more stretching is done to the muscle this can result in misalignment of the spine because the tendons of the muscles are attached to bones. Performing strengthening exercises will help to shorten the muscle and reduce pressure on the spine and reduced risk of injury.
Be sure to consult a chiropractor after feeling a “kick” or “crick” in the neck and do not allow the injury to try and heal over time.
Even if the pain subsides over time, the chances for re-exacerbation are high because the nerve pressure still exists. Chiropractors are the best option not only for helping to relieve the pain and symptoms but also for being a natural form of treatment that does not make the underlying issue with medication.
Dr. Brandon Siegmund is a chiropractor in Houston, Texas.