Neck pain disturbing your sleep?

An interesting case

Few things are more trying that serious sleep disturbance. Mrs van Dijk woke up one morning about three months ago with a stiff neck. There was no obvious cause, though later she admitted to me that she sometimes like to sleep on her tum.

She did what most people do, ignored it. In fact, what I would have recommended. Most stiff necks go away of their own accord after a few days.

There were no worrying signs like a fever (meningitis), headache or pain running down the arm (a pinched nerve in the neck.) So she ignored it.

Only Mrs van Dijk's stiff neck didn't go away. It got worse. So after a week she visited her doctor who recommended muscle relaxants, but they didn't help. By this stage, two weeks had passed, and she was beginning to get headaches. A further course of anti-inflammatories didn't help either, in fact they started giving her pain in the stomach, so her doctor sent her to a physiotherapist.

She then did what the modern Dutch person does. She typed 'stiff neck' and the name of our town into Google.

Sleep disturbance

By the time Mrs van Dijk, a petit 40-year old Dutch woman, arrived on my doorstep, she was thoroughly miserable. The pain in her neck woke her at various times every night, and she couldn't get back to sleep.

For reasons I confess to not really understanding, neck pain may be severe at night. Whereas one can usually find a comfortable position with a sciatica for example, a pinched nerve in the neck can be murder in the middle of the night.

We grow taller at night - literally - as they joints absorb fluid from the surrounding tissues, bringing in nutrients and oxygen to the joint cartilage, but this applies also to the low back. Perhaps the fluid enters the small neck joints faster, making them swell (normal), so that an already swollen joint then begins to radiate pain signals much sooner than a lumbar joint. But that's just speculation.

An Aside: That's why sleeping on your tum is so bad. Having your neck twisted for long periods keeps the neck under tension, so those nutrient loaded fluids can't flood the joint tissues.

Then during the day, with the weight of gravity, those fluids are squeezed out, carrying waste products of tissue digestion with them. If they remain in the joint, then they will start irritating the cartilage and the nerves.

Cervical Facet Syndrome

Between the bones of the neck there are five joints. One is large, called the disc joint, two moderately sized (the facet joints), and two tiny joints that we will ignore in this email.

The disc joint is a sort of shock absorber, but the facet joints control how far you can turn, and twist, and extend your neck. Sometimes a tiny piece of the capsule becomes entrapped giving sudden onset to a stiff neck, and sometimes severe pain.

If the joint does not come free, either of its own accord, or with manipulation, then nutrition of the joint cartilage becomes severely compromised, with the development of what scientists are calling 'Immobilisation Arthritis'.


Whilst you don't have to go rushing off to your chiropractor every time you wake up with a stiff neck, if it does not start to improve immediately the same day, if you start to get headaches or pain or tingling begins in your arm, or if the pain and stiffness haven't gone completely within a week or two, then it's better to get to your chiropractor.

Acute conditions usually get completely better with chiropractic, but once you have allowed it to become chronic (some authorities say three months, other six) then we are less confident of being able to assure you of a complete cure.

For more about neck pain, click here.

Nutritional corner

Do you know that a tomato a day will reduces the chance of getting prostate cancer (the most common fatal cancer in men) by a massive 50%. The suggestion is that it MAY be better if cooked. So cooked, raw eat more tomatoes. Delicious. Read more about the prostate and the effect of tomatoes Until next month then. Promise not fill your Inbox with information overload.

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Yours in Better Health