Aches and pains can make you 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. 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, we must first figure out why we get pain. Let’s take a look at the key areas we tend to suffer from aches and how we can stop it happening.
We’ve all woken up with a stiff neck after ‘sleeping funny’. But what exactly does this mean? Our spines are made up of three main parts- the 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.
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So how can we stop 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 ‘The pillow supports your head and neck, but doesn’t push it forward’. If you do happen to wake up with a sore neck, take some anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen and try to do some gentle neck exercises to loosen it.
Similarly, with neck pain, middle and lower back pain after sleeping are almost always attributed to improper support. Back pain can also be related to poor posture, which can be helped by choosing the right mattress, check out our Bed and Mattress Guide to find out how to find the right bed for you.
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.’
If you are a side sleeper and suffer from back pain, it is 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.
As you can probably see by now, neck, back and hip pain are all related and are caused by similar sleep issues. More specifically with hip pain, the cause can lie in your mattress. Having a mattress that’s too hard or too soft might not be good for your body’s natural alignment, meaning they will ache. A poor quality mattress can also cause this as it will not give the proper support that your body needs. Certified athletic trainer and therapist, Carla E. Larson from WatchFit suggest 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’ to help relax and loosen the muscles from the day’s activities.
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 as this can cause further issues.