What causes stiff back and neck during sleep?
Reasons rarely include voodoo curses.
A backache is a real pain in the neck. But for a double dose of trouble, consider the creaky combo of a stiff back topped by a stiff neck. The puzzling conditions frequently develop—simultaneously or separately—in the deepest darkness of the night when the victim's primary activity may be punctuated with only an occasional snore—or snort. What causes stiff back and neck during sleep? The reasons rarely include voodoo curses. But the question takes some pondering.
The muscles of the back and neck can be stressed in many ways. Are muscles in other parts of the body involved? Is a morning headache part of the package? Hundreds of causes could be proffered. Sometimes a doctor is needed. But usually, a cure can be traced without medical intervention. How's your pillow? How's your sleeping posture?
Consider the sleeping environment
Temperature is a factor in sleeping soundly and waking pain free. A person who sleeps in a room that is drafty or too cold is inviting stiffness. Beware of running the air conditioner on the arctic setting. Inadvertent muscle tightening can lead to compressed nerves. Such compression might indeed be what causes stiff back and neck during sleep.
Another factor is whether or not the sleeping area is too cramped for comfort. A bed littered with diversions can impinge upon freedom of movement. Books, compact disc players and pets do not make friendly bedfellows. A cat that insists on curling up between the legs of a prone pet lover can greatly inhibit freedom of movement. The sleeper quickly learns not to budge, for swift is the punishment—the sudden insertion of ten sharp claws into the tender inners of the offender's thighs.
Clear the covers of soda cans, cell phones and pizza boxes before settling down for the night. In the realm between sleep and wakefulness, it's important to know one can stretch out at any time—in any direction. It's a wonderful thing to move freely. Who wants to discover in the morning a cell phone with a dead battery—or greasy round adhesions of pepperoni stuck to the side of one's face?
Evaluate the size of the pillow
The spine is a marvelous structure whose column of bones—vertebrae—provides support for the whole body. The vertebrae also protect the body's spinal cord—the source of the exquisite network of nerves that controls a myriad of body functions such as movement, breathing, digestion and other marvels.
There are more than 30 bones in the spine, whose domain ranges from the terminus of the tailbone to the base of the brain box—the skull. The neck claims seven of these vertebrae. It is these important little bones that support the head. And the weight of the human head is about the same as a hefty 10-pound sack of potatoes.
Review sleeping posture
The bones of the spine and the neck need to be aligned in a neutral arrangement—one that is free from crimps and bends. Stiffness in the neck can occur when the back is fairly straight but the neck is propped up by a super-sized pillow or a pillow that is too hard. Likewise, an oversized pillow that props up not only the neck but the upper shoulders can cause a bow-like curvature where the lower edge of the pillow meets the vertebral column of the back. A reverse bow results from sleeping on the stomach.
Make an inspection of the mattress
Consider the condition of the mattress. Pull off the spread. Remove the sheets and inspect the surface of the mattress. Does it sag in the center? Is it lumpy? Can an imprint of the springs or support coils be discerned through the fabric of the mattress cover? Is the foam rubber filling or polyester batting disintegrated in places? Chances are the mattress was purchased after World War II and its glory days as the bridal bed are waning—fast. Consider replacing your old mattress with a memory foam mattress.
Sometimes, all it takes to find out what causes stiff back and neck during sleep is a little investigation. Or, buying a new bed—at least, for the cat.