Ask the Professionals: Causes of Stiff Neck

Does a bad pillow causes stiff neck?
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Q: Recently I have been waking up with a stiff neck that goes away throughout the day. I was wondering if it could be related to my pillow because I have trouble getting comfortable at night and I am balling my pillow under the neck for support. Is there advice you can give to help me sleep better and help my stiff neck?

A: It could be because of your pillow if you find it hard to get comfortable. If your pillow is older, it may have lost some structure and support so this may be a case of replacing your pillow. There are many different options out there for pillows so it may be good to start with looking for a pillow for your sleeping position. Finding a pillow that is made for side sleeping, back sleeping or stomach sleeping is a good start to finding what will work better. They are often made with structure for your anatomy in those specific positions. 

A great DIY way to see if you need more structure in your pillow for your neck is to grab a towel (like a bath towel or hand towel) and make a towel roll. Fold the towel in half lengthwise and roll it end to end to make a long roll. Place it in the pillowcase under your pillow to prevent slipping through the night. Play around with the thickness of the towel, the thickness of the roll and where the curvature of your neck is until you are most comfortable. If you are a side sleeper, a good place for the roll is between your head and shoulder. If you are a back sleeper, it can be comfortable between the base of your skull and the tops of your shoulders.

It may be beneficial to look at purchasing a cervical roll for your pillow which can do the same thing as the towel but the material is denser so the support is harder and more structured. Once you know what size works best for you with the towel roll, this could be a great long term solution. Another option could be to purchase a new pillow with a “cervical support” feature. There are many different options out there so it may take some research to find what works for you. Because we are all different shapes and sizes, there is no perfect pillow for every person so sometimes it takes some finesse to find your ideal option.

If you continue to have trouble sleeping or your neck symptoms worsen, it may be a good idea to check in with your doctor to rule out any other issues that could be causing it.
If you are continuing to have problems with stiffness, it may be helpful to have some massage therapy sessions to loosen the muscles of your neck, shoulders and head. Your massage therapist can offer other tips and stretches to help with your neck stiffness. Give us a call or email if you have any questions or would like to book an appointment! (705) 788-1480 or [email protected]

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