The head and neck spend many hours each night on the pillow, so choosing the right one is key to having a healthy and pain-free neck. A pillow that doesn't support the head and neck properly can create tension in the neck muscles and cause neck pain. Torticollis is not a condition in itself, such as ankylosing spondylitis. It is rather a symptom that can have several sources.
Irritated ligament tissue that connects bones to other bones in the neck is a common culprit, and neck muscle spasms are another. Any of these can be caused by “bad” sleep, especially since the neck muscles will be exhausted from holding the head all day. The time it takes for stiff neck to heal due to minor strain depends on the severity of the strain. However, most minor strains feel much better after resting the neck for 24 hours, but sometimes stiffness can take up to a week to go away if the strain is in the moderate range.
Most neck pain only lasts a few weeks. There are things you can do yourself to relieve it, but see a family doctor if it doesn't go away. In addition, it is well established that pain can disrupt sleep, contributing to a vicious cycle of pain that interrupts sleep and sleep problems contribute to pain. Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach; it can put pressure on the nerves that start in the neck and cause more neck pain or radiculopathy (pain that radiates from the spinal cord to the arms or legs).
If your neck pain doesn't improve after a few days of self-care, or if your pain worsens, consider seeing your doctor to find out what's causing the pain. To help prevent neck pain when you wake up, there are steps you can take to support your neck and reduce tension in your neck muscles. Don't wear a neck brace; it's best to keep your neck moving (unless your doctor tells you not to). Facet joints at the back of the cervical vertebrae or neck can also be a site of stiffness in the neck.
A couple of simple exercises can help keep your neck muscles strong and flexible, which can reduce the risk of waking up with neck pain. Even without a clearly diagnosed cause, current treatments can effectively relieve neck pain and help you learn how to prevent it from coming back. The way you sleep can also have a profound effect on how you wake up ready to face the day or ready to get back under the covers and hide from neck pain. Research suggests that not only the sleeping position, but also the sleep itself, may play a role in musculoskeletal pain, including neck and shoulder pain.
If neck pain is caused by muscle spasm, heat can help you relax and cause blood to flow to it. By the time you really feel pain, it may be too late for stretching to help you, but keeping your muscles loose and flexible can reduce the risk of future neck ligament sprains, muscle and tendon strains, and stiff neck. You may think that a hard pillow can hurt your neck, but it's usually a pillow that's too soft that causes you to wake up with neck pain.