Why Your Hips, Neck or Back Might Hurt After Sleep

5 Min Read | By Gemma Curtis

Last Modified 17 January 2024   First Added 14 March 2017

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

Aches and pains can cause you to wake up feeling stiff and sore. Most of us would love to awaken with a ‘rise and shine’ attitude, but often it’s a hard task even to open our eyes and sit up comfortably without creaking and aching. Do you wake up asking yourself ‘Why do my sides hurt when I wake up in the morning?’ Don’t worry, we’re here to help.

Aside from suffering from a medical condition such as fibromyalgia, standard aches and pains are completely normal and usually go away quickly. But why do we get them in the first place and how can we prevent them?

To understand how we can prevent pain, whether it be hip pain, aching muscles or why our sides hurt when we wake up, firstly, we must first figure out why we get pain. Let’s take a look at the key areas at risk of aches and pains and how we can stop it from happening.

This article will look at:

  • Hip pain: What causes hip pain and why do your sides hurt in the morning?
  • Neck pain: What causes neck pain? And, how you can prevent it?
  • Back pain: What causes back pain? And, how you can prevent it?
woman stretching for bed

1. Hip pain

When you suffer from hip pain at night, the cause often lies in your mattress. Having a mattress that’s too hard or too soft might not be good for your body’s natural alignment, meaning your sides may ache.

A poor quality mattress can also cause this as it won’t give the proper support that your body needs. For those who struggle with hip pain often, certified athletic trainer and therapist, Carla E. Larson from WatchFit suggests you should:

Get the hips ready for bed. Perform stretches such as standing forward lunge, knee to chest, trunk rotation, sitting cross over stretch, butterfly or frog stretch and 90/90 hamstring stretch.

When waking up with hip pain, you can also ice the sore area which will reduce inflammation and pain. You should ice the area for 15-20 minutes and wait at least 30 minutes before icing the area again. This can be repeated throughout the day. However, the pain usually lessens when walking around. Remember never to sleep with an ice pack or to apply ice to bare skin as this can cause further issues such as ice burn, ouch.

result of neck pain from sleep

2. Neck pain

We’ve all woken up with neck pain after ‘sleeping funny’. But what exactly does this mean? Our spines are made up of three main parts: lumbar (bottom), thoracic (middle) and cervical (top – this is your neck).

When we sleep in an awkward position, the weight of our heads can irritate the joints in between the vertebrae of our necks, causing muscle spasms and inflammation. This causes discomfort and pain, meaning we wake up aching.

Sleeping without proper neck support can cause torticollis or ‘wry neck’ which means twisted neck. It is common to experience torticollis at some point in our lives, but it can be painful for a couple of days and cause discomfort.


Learn everything you need to know about pillows

How to prevent neck pain

So, how can we stop neck pain from this happening? Choosing the right pillow can make a huge difference. The right pillow for you may not be the right pillow for someone else so it’s important to try different styles and levels of firmness in order to support your head in a neutral position when you sleep. Try to ensure that your head is not sinking too low, raised too high or unsupported due to a really soft pillow as all of these factors can contribute to muscle stiffness. Men’s Health’s sports medicine adviser Bill Hartman suggests that sleeping on your back is the best position, stating that in this position:

The pillow supports your head and neck, but doesn’t push it forward.

If you do happen to wake up with a sore neck, consider some gentle neck exercises or contact your GP if it feels serious.

3. Back pain

Similarly to neck pain, middle and lower back pain after sleeping are almost always attributed to improper support. Waking up with a stiff back in the morning can also be related to poor posture, which can be helped by choosing the right mattress firmness level. Check out our personal comfort guide to find out what the most appropriate firmness level is for you based on your sleeping position.

If the spine and surrounding muscles are not properly supported, it can cause them stress, resulting in pain. Bad sleeping positions can also be the cause of back pain and the most important thing to remember is to try and keep your spine as straight as possible. Professionals at Cleveland Clinic suggest:

The best position for sleeping is on your back. The worst position for sleeping is on your stomach due to the unnatural position of your neck. Sleeping on your back evenly distributes weight across the widest surface of your body, minimising pressure points and ensuring proper alignment of your internal organs.

Back pain is common in the morning. The majority of the time back pain is stiffness from resting for long periods of time, therefore it is nothing to worry about. The pain will start to relieve the more you start to move around. In more serious cases, back pain could be due to an underlying medical condition. Other causes of back pain include stress.

How to prevent back pain

If you’re a side sleeper and suffer from back pain, it’s a good idea to place a pillow in between your legs when sleeping. This keeps the hips, pelvis and spine aligned and minimises the strain caused on your back.

Banish bedtime back pain with our helpful guide

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