I’m Waking Up with a Stiff Neck!

Alarm - focus on alarmLife is stressful enough during the day that it seems truly heartbreaking that many us cannot get the restorative sleep we need each night. Tossing and turning causing insomnia is an epidemic in the U.S., but worse, some of us wake up with actual pain and stiffness. It’s a completely normal way to start the day, right? Wrong.

Sometimes it’s the mattress being too soft or unsupportive. Or maybe the too thick hotel pillow has gotten your number. Sleep posture is very critical to spinal health. The neck has a forward arch, and this has to be preserved for there to be maximal relaxation of the spinal cord and nerves. Also, the head needs to be supported when turning to side sleeping. The pillow needs to be thick enough so that the head does not fall towards the shoulder, stretching the muscles and delicate nerves on the side of the neck.

You need to rest your spine each night so that the tissues can repair and heal. It is important that muscles are able to relax and the bones of the neck are not placed into abnormal postures. Ever fall asleep on an armrest of a sofa or in a car or plane? Most of us have experienced the stiffness that comes with this, but some of us have spinal bones that are already sprained and displaced from old injuries, which means good sleeping posture is even more critical. Simply a minor change from our usual bed or pillow is enough to make for a stiff neck in the morning. Or perhaps you thought a stiff neck in the morning was normal because it has gone on for years.

One of the more common problems for morning stiffness is neck and body position. Stomach sleeping is a definite no. In this position, the neck will be twisted excessively. The best positions will be side lying with adequate head support, or flat on the back with a proper neck-support pillow. These types of pillows allow the cushion to push upwards into the curve of the neck, while the head is cradled. Usually pillows are simply too thick and these can cause the neck to be in a forward stressed position which stretches the nerves and spinal cord.

If you’re waking up with a stiff neck, then it could be how you’re sleeping or whether your pillow is right for good neck sleeping posture. For better sleep habits, better neck function and less stress on your nerves and spinal cord visit your chiropractor today to discuss the proper sleeping posture and pillow for you.

Source: www.chiro-trust.org


Do you have the weight of the world on your shoulders?

posture shift

smiling bowling ballYou do have a heavy weight on your shoulders.  Your head!  The average human head weighs 8-12lbs (4-5kg), that’s about the same weight as a bowling ball!

The thing that stops you noticing the weight of your head is the suspension in your neck. What I mean by this is the curve in your cervical (neck) spine has a natural 43 degree arc, like a banana, that acts like suspension for your head.  As you move around, whether walking or sitting down, the curve in your neck compresses like a spring to take the pressure of your head off your body.

Sometimes, due to bad posture while reading or working at a computer (or texting!!), you can move your head forward of your shoulders.  This common posture is called forward head carriage (FHC).  FHC has 2 main effects: it reduces your 43 degree (suspension) arc in your neck, and it moves the weight of the head forward from your center of gravity.

Loosing your internal banana

As you move your head forward it places increased stress on your neck and shoulders.  For every inch you move your head forward your head effectively weights 10 pounds more!  What does that feel like? Next time you pick up a bowling ball, try this out: hold the ball close to your chest and feel the weight of the ball, then move it away from your body and feel how much harder it is to hold.  That is exactly what the muscles in your neck and shoulders are feeling when you move your head forward.weight of head bowling ball demonstration

poor texting postureThe problem is we don’t do this for a minute or two, we do it all the time.  In fact, what’s your posture like now as you read this on your computer or phone?!  Today we spend a large majority of our time with our heads in FHC.  This is why at Bright Life Family Chiropractic we see so many people who feel all their stress in their neck and shoulders, often coupled with headaches as well.  We have the ability to x-ray in our office; a large majority of the neck x-rays we examine the 43 degree banana curve has straightened or gone in the opposite direction!  This is due to maintaining a posture with FHC, day after day sitting at our desk, reading or playing with Facebook on your phone, for years.

What’s so bad about loosing the curve in your neck?

cervical x-ray normal and lost curveWell, we read earlier that it can cause symptoms like neck pain and headaches, sinus problems, hypo or hyperthyroidism, ear infections, even sometimes tingling into the hands.  In a study that studied 6000 people with chronic headaches, the only common finding they found was a loss or reversal of the normal curve in the neck!  However, research also tells us that it can speed up and cause premature onset of osteoarthritis (wear and tear) of the joints and degeneration of the discs (shock absorbers) of the cervical (neck) spine.  It also tells us that it can decrease your lung breathing capacity by 30% among other effects!   So as you can see it is very important to maintain the proper alignment of the joints in your neck

So what can be done to stop this?

The most important factor is to avoid adopting postures that cause FHC.  Make sure your desk is set up correctly with your screen at the right height; ensure you don’t spend prolonged periods of time with your head slumped forward on your phone; hold your book at a level so you can read it comfortably without  jutting your head forward…  You get the picture!

Secondly, Chiropractic and massage!  Chiropractic will help you realign the joints of your neck and slow down/prevent the wear and tear process (Osteoarthritis).  If you’ve got to the stage of symptoms like neck pain and headaches, then Chiropractic is most definitely the best choice and natural choice to correcting the cause of the problem and start the healing process.  Massage will help take the pressure off the muscles surrounding the spine and help to lengthen the muscles that have shortened as a result of regular FHC.  Specifically prescribed stretches, cervical neck traction and exercises to do at home from your Chiropractor will help you make the necessary changes at home too.

If  you want a fully functioning nervous system and want to stop the wear and tear in your neck, then Chiropractic is the way to go!  We would love to help you live life at 100%.

Until Then-
Walk in Excellence, Comfort and Conviction with a Total Spirit of Love!
–Dr. Erica


I “crack” my own neck,what more can a Chiropractor do?


Lots of people “crack” or “pop” their own necks; sometimes for relief, sometimes for dramatic effect, sometime just because they can, often without trying to.  But what is the difference between “cracking” it yourself and a Chiropractor doing it?

The need to “crack” one’s own neck is potentially a sign of an underlying problem.  Often the need to do it is down to poor posture putting excess stress on the joints in the cervical (neck) spine.  Due to the stresses on the spine, the joints become restricted and uncomfortable.  If an on-going problem, it may get to the stage of a trapped nerve!  When you “crack” your own neck (self adjust) you are mostly ‘cracking’ either the joint above or below the restricted one that needs to move properly.  Chiropractors train over 4-5 years to adjust the right joint in the right way (see picture below).  This relieves the restricted joint and frees up any trapped nerves.

Is there anything wrong with “cracking” my own neck?


The danger of doing it yourself is you’re “cracking” the wrong joints.  When you self adjust it may make the same ‘popping’ noise (air being released from the joint) as a Chiropractic adjustment; it might provide some relief, due to the natural release of a pain-relieving chemical called endorphins.  But it can cause damage.

When a joint is restricted, the joints above and below work harder to compensate for the lack of movement in the stiff joint.  So these joints are moving too much already and when you self adjust you are forcing them to move even further (see picture).  This can, over time, cause stretching of the ligaments that support the spine and lead to instability and future problems.

Self adjusting neck - clicking

So what should I do if I always “crack” my own neck?

From what we’ve learnt so far, you potentially have an underlying problem and are causing damage to the ligaments of your spine.  First  look at your posture to prevent unnecessary stress on your neck and shoulders.  Second, have a full examination with a Chiropractor to assess the movement and function of the individual joints of the spine.  A Chiropractor will then be able to recommend stretches, postural advice, and, if necessary, a course of Chiropractic adjustments to restore the correct movement to the spine.

Until Then-
Walk in Excellence, Comfort and Conviction with a Total Spirit of Love

-Dr. Erica