Chiropractor Questions Neck Pain

I have neck pain that only occurs when I lie down. What could be the reason?

I have a neck pain that keeps recurring every time I lie down, particularly when I sleep straight on my back. What could be the reason for this pain?

23 Answers

There are many reasons for neck pain lying down. Poor posture, degenerative disc disease (arthritis), pillow concerns, misaligned cervical spine, etc. Check with your family chiropractor to find the cause and to correct it.
You might have a joint in your neck that is out of alignment. Contact your local chiropractor for a comprehensive assessment of your neck.

That’s typically a sign that you have mechanical issues and likely have misalignments in your neck and or upper back.

Dr. Amanda
Depends on the type of pain. If it's just an achy pain, it is possible that your pillow is pushing your head forward and straining the muscles in your neck.
Perhaps a pinched nerve, see a chiropractor
It sounds like you may have a mechanical issue such as a restriction in normal motion or alignment of the neck vertebrae. When you lie on your back, your neck may be extending more than usual, causing some irritation to the joint and an increase in muscle tension. Consider having an examination of the neck to determine the actual cause of the pain. In the meantime, try stretching your neck before you lie down.
Do you have any history of motor vehicle accidents or a direct trauma to your neck or loss of your cervical orthosis?
This could be due to many reasons. For some reason, the pain is only manifesting while you lay down, but the pain process will be there the entire time. I'd go see a chiropractor. If you are in Pittsburgh or the surrounding area, come and see me. I am sure I can help you out. If you can't find a good chiropractor, then try some stretching, ice, and low-intensity exercising. You may have arthritis, or just a pulled muscle. I can't say with the information that you gave me. But you won't go wrong if you stretch, use ice, and try some mild exercising.


Dr. Josh Cohen
Lack of support and bad posture
There are many factors that come in to play with your question. You may have degeneration in your cervical spine that is aggravated by the position you are lying in. Your mattress, your pillow, your sleep position and numerous other factors can also contribute to your symptoms. A chiropractic exam and/or an x-ray would be beneficial to assess the condition of your cervical spine.
From the information you’re giving your neck pain is probably due to a forward head carriage. A forward head carriage is when the head is off the center axis and is in front of the shoulders. This puts extra stress on the muscles of the neck and cause misalignment of the cervical spinal bones. When you have a forward head carriage and lie on your back, you stretch the muscles pulling the head forward causing the joints of the back of your spine to “jam.” This is called facet imbrication. So your pain is either due to muscles being tight or facet imbrication. This is very common with people who sit at a computer workstation or drive for a living. You could also have a bulging disc. Also caused by the muscle tightness.

How I would treat this is through myofascial release, active release technique, and chiropractic manipulation. You need to loosen the muscles up by stretching, hot shower, nutrition, Heat/ice, or traction.
It may be due to changes in your cervical curve. This may alter muscle tension creating some discomfort when lying on your back. Getting some adjustments from your local chiropractor may be able to get you the relief you need.
Thanks for your question. When pain is positional as you described it is usually as a result of a structural dysfunction.
In your case it very well could be a pinched nerve or subluxation of one or more of the vertibrae in your neck. It sounds like a chiropractic problem that could be fixed with proper cervical adjustments.
Hi there,

That could actually be a number of things. I would suggest you contact your primary care physician regarding this concern as soon as possible. If you have high blood pressure, I’d suggest going in immediately.


Dr. Caitlin Zietz, B.Sc., D.C.
Neck pain can be due to several different factors; previous history/trauma, daily living activities, disc injuries, facet provocation, etc. it would be helpful to have more information and for a formal exam to be done to exclude some of these factors in order to give you a proper diagnosis. We would be happy to help you further with an exam and consult if you would like to do so.

Dr. Iwanski
You most likely do not have a pillow that is the proper support for your neck. If you have a subluxation "lack of motion in a joint of your neck" when you lay on your back if it cannot move or glide properly that will contribute to the pain.

Dr. Webb
There are many causes that can only be found by an expert which means me. Like, Do you support your neck or your head with a pillow or not? Or, Do you have a neck abnormality that is accentuated by that position? Is it in the light or the dark, or both? Is it referred pain that is only activated by that position? Is it aggravating a disorder of your skull? As you can see, there are many causes. These may require a unique approach.
Some of the causes for neck pain from laying down can be related to the type of pillow you have. If you are sleeping on a pillow that is too high, it can cause pain when you wake up. If your pillow is too hard or stiff, this can also cause pain. The reason is that you flexing your head and not allowing it to relax while you are sleeping. Your neck should have a natural c-shaped curve and these two examples would not allow your neck to have that while you lie down. The best way to determine what is going on with your neck is to see a chiropractor for a complete examination.
This may be an issue related to posture. Laying flat removes the curvature from your midback, and brings you head back. If you have too much curvature in your mid-back and forward head posture, then laying flat may stress your neck and cause pain.
Hello from Dr. Moon!

This could be from several reasons, and you should be checked by a chiropractor to see what exactly is going on. Since it happens when you lay down, I would check your pillow as a possible aggravating factor. Your pillow should support your neck, but let your head fall back a little. I like "My Pillow," but make sure you get the correct size. We even sell them in our office.
Normally, this should not happen. There is probably misalignment of the vertebrae pinching or irritating nerves, or there could be degenerative changes like disc narrowing or arthritis. These things get worse if they aren't taken care of, even if changing the pillow helps, so an appointment is a really good idea.

Good luck!
Dr. Steven Moon, Concord Chiropractic, Inc.
There are many reasons why this might be happening. If you are sleeping on your back your neck might be not have enough support which will put pressure on the joints in the back of the neck called Facet joints. The spinal nerves are located near these joints and if the joints are inflamed the extra pressure will irritate the nerves in the area.
There are many aspects to take into consideration for neck pain that happens when lying down. Such things like what position are you in when laying down, do you lay on pillows, if so how many, did you have any accidents or traumas that occurred when your pain first started, etc. Getting an initial chiropractic consultation allows the doctor to go through neurological and orthopedic testing with you to determine the root cause of your pain.
You most likely have a torn ligament in your neck that normally supports the spine. When you lie down, your neck muscles relax, allowing for slight movement in the vertebra (neck bone) causing nerve irritation and pain. It could be a pillow that is not supporting your neck properly also.