Pain in your neck or back after waking up can be a signal for more things than a night of inadequate and misaligned sleep. Your shoulders or neck may be stiff or sore after waking up, and the reason may not be evident to you. Despite sleeping in the correct position, your mattress, pillow, and bodyweight reacting with these elements say everything about your muscle-pain issues. While there is not much you can do to take care of pain afterward; you can prevent and maintain your neck and shoulder muscles with the right mattress.
Taking care of your neck and shoulders would need exercise and stretch on your end and the right mattress and pillow combination. A mattress or pillow that is too hard or too soft for your biological factors like bodyweight distribution, spinal and muscle strength (fitness level) would be a poor choice. If you're looking to get rid of body (especially neck and shoulder) pains for good, your sleep orientation plays a critical role.
Things that cause neck and shoulder pain:
- Sleeping Posture: Your sleeping posture indicates how your muscles and pressure points rest during the night. For example, sleeping on the side means your shoulders and neck need to be in a comfortable position as their pressure points are misaligned. Without adequate support and cushioning, sleeping on the side would result in your shoulder blades and adjacent muscles facing discomfort and compression.
This compression and discomfort can happen mainly in mattresses that are too hard to allow some freedom for your shoulders to 'sink' in the bed. The same scenario applies to your neck in both the side and back sleeping position, as your spine needs to be in a neutral position in both positions. When you sleep on your side, and your mattress is too hard, your shoulders may be good to sink, but your pillow would lead to your neck being elevated.
In a firm or ultra-firm mattress, your neck would be forced to sink to the pillow level irrespective of the pillow's firmness. Moreover, in the back sleeping position, your neck and shoulders both need to lie in a neutral horizontal position. The best mattress to allow sleeping in both positions would be a medium-firm mattress that allows your shoulder muscles to sink a little without compensating for your spinal alignment and support throughout.
- Firmness/Softness Level: Your mattress's firmness and softness level are crucial in determining your neck and shoulder. This is both dependent on- how you sleep and your biological factors. Sleeping on a firm or medium-firm mattress is essential for people with injuries or weakened muscles because of old age. But young adults and children can opt for a softer mattress based on their fitness levels. Overall, our body's fitness, age, and other factors also determine if a mattress's firmness/softness level is good for our neck and shoulder. The neck and shoulder muscles are generally weak because they don't get enough functional exercise as the rest of the body. Without specialized care with stretching, exercise, and other factors, our neck and shoulder muscles grow weak with age, leading to issues like cervical pain. The best case for back, neck, and shoulder pain prevention and muscle maintenance is a medium-firm mattress. While no one singular firmness level suits all or is even preferable, the best case for neck and shoulder pain prevention is a medium-firm mattress. The body wouldn't sink enough to cause your head to be elevated on the pillow; neither does it have the discomfort or extra support to cause your head to tilt down. Of course, there are variations for all these cases, and you should consult with your doctor in case of grave issues or cervical pain care.
- Support Level: The best mattresses for neck and shoulder pain usually have an excellent support system. This is because irrespective of firmness, sleeping orientation, and pillows, the mattress has to support your entire spine. Be it sleeping on the side or the back; your spine needs to be relaxed and your neck in proper support (no sinking or elevation). This support level is critical in ensuring you sleep without any pain or muscle deterioration because of an improperly maintained posture. Our sleeping posture in either position determines where we could experience pain in the short or long term. When we talk about support level, it depends on both your mattress and pillow configuration and the kind of support your body needs. For example, an overweight/obese person would need a Bonnell coil innerspring mattress with soft cushioning to support the spine and a plush comfort layer for the neck and shoulders. The weakened neck and shoulders in overweight or older people need extra support and cushioning without sinking or discomfort.
- Pillows: Same as your mattress, your pillows are another vital everyday care essential in preventing or taking care of neck and shoulder pain. Pillows are the next important factor after choosing the right mattress because now that your spine is aligned correctly, we need to address the neck and shoulder area. The neck and shoulders area would need relaxation from a pillow that doesn't cause your head to either sink in excessively or stay elevated. That is why it is a bad idea to use multiple pillows, and one hard/firm or medium-firm pillow is recommended. A medium-firm pillow is always the wiser option to use in case of cervical or other forms of neck and shoulder pains. You should always use only one pillow of a specific firmness level instead of stacking up multiple old or fluffy pillows.
- Old/sagged mattress: An old or saggy mattress would be another reason why your neck and shoulders end up paining often. Any old or saggy mattress would have unevenly compressed areas that result in your spine or pillow sinking down. Based on the fat distribution in your body, your mattress could have permanent or semi-permanent uneven mattress impressions. These areas of unevenly lacking support and cushioning are not only harmful to your back but your spine in general too. As a result, your spine is misaligned, leading to back problems and raising/sinking your shoulders. So, if you're facing back, shoulders, and neck-related pain, it could be your old mattress that's causing these issues.
- Incompatible Mattress: An incompatible mattress is one that either provides you with more or less cushioning and/or support than your body needs in the long term. Like how an old/saggy mattress can cause your neck and shoulder pain, an incompatible new mattress can lead to the same effect. If your new mattress doesn't support or allow you to sleep in plush comfort as per your body requirements and preference, it can lead to back pain and shoulder pains. For example, choosing an innerspring Bonnell coil mattress if you're not overweight or with any injuries would result in a full-body supportive experience which is more than you need. You wouldn't be able to sleep in the side as your shoulders wouldn't sink into the unforgiving mattress surface. Choosing an innerspring pocket coil medium-firm mattress would help contour your body, allow you to sleep in different positions, and offer full-body cushioning support. The best way to find a mattress that suits your body and your preference is to use our biometric SleepID tool.
How to get relief from neck and shoulder pain?
If you're looking for relief from chronic neck and shoulder pain, it is best to find the cause before addressing and going about treating it. Like with any other medical condition, the best way is to consult a physician first and then take corrective measures. However, taking care of your body always doesn't need a diagnosis.
Whether you're looking caring after or before a diagnosis related to neck and shoulder pain, the base tips are the same:
- Physical therapy and exercise: While exercise is one of the best ways to keep your muscles in top shape and prevent pain, physical therapy might be the best option in extreme cases. It would be best not to exercise your neck and shoulder when they're hurting (strength training and other intensive which would enhance pain). Stretching, posture exercises, movements, and other simple rotations go a long way in aligning your neck muscles and offering relief from pain. However, in extreme cases of chronic pain or injury, massage or physical therapy with cold and hot treatment would help recover your muscles. It is best to consult your doctor and then go forward with such therapy from a professional. On days you feel your neck and shoulder pain is becoming too much to tolerate, or you're feeling dizzy because of cervical, it is best to call in a professional. You can always get home-therapies based on your condition from your doctor or professional.
- Using a neck pillow: A neck pillow when you're traveling, working on your desk, or lying in a semi-prone position is another way to get relief from neck and shoulder pain. Using a neck pillow allows your neck and shoulder muscles to relax and offer temporary pain relief. This technique is beneficial for people with posture issues because of work or other activities. A neck pillow during the day, when it hurts, and doing work can help you ensure you don't lean forward with your neck harming your posture and becoming a cause of chronic pain.
- Correcting your posture: One of the leading causes of neck and shoulder pain is our posture during the day and when relaxing. Pandemic or not, everyone leans over the computer and often ends up sinking into the screen with the neck leaning forward. This posture often ends up creating tension and posture stress in your shoulder muscles and neck. Over time, some people have a hard time returning to a normal posture since it becomes the natural state when working or watching anything. So, the next time you're working in front of a screen or slouching over to play games or any activity, pay special attention to how you sit. Our neck and shoulders take the same physical stress as our back but can cause more pain because of less usage and posture issues. This scenario also applies to how you relax in bed. That is, if you play games, read or engage in any hobby or pastime in a way that you sit in an inclined manner. Sitting without support on your back or your head resting against the headboard leads to awful short and long-term pains affecting everything from your back to neck and shoulders.
- Using the right pillow and mattress: After you've addressed your neck and shoulder pain superficially, the best way to treat it in the long term is with the right sleeping environment. The right pillow firmness and mattress firmness help ensure that your spine is correctly supported along with good support for your head. By adequately supporting both your head and spine, the pressure on your neck and shoulder muscles is almost negligible, and they're able to recover. These steps can help you get pain relief preemptively and post-diagnosis of such issues. A mistake most people make to make sleep more comfortable is to use several pillows. This is a blunder and a huge mistake for people looking for pain relief for their neck and shoulders. Using more than one pillow leads to chronic pain, bad sleeping posture (because you don't always sleep on the side), and general muscle pulling risk too. One medium-firm or medium-soft pillow is ideal if you're looking for long-term pain relief.
- Addressing a pinched/pull nerve: We're all used to the occasional pinched neck or back, and it is perfectly natural as long as it's a rare occurrence. However, the experience is too painful to endure or function normally, and it has a great chance of happening without the proper support and comfort for your neck and shoulders. A pinched nerve in your neck and shoulders indicates you need to rest, and a hot and cold compress can help with some relief. Pain-relief sprays, yoga regularly, and a massage can often help reduce the intensity of a pinched nerve.
- De-stressing: Yes, mental stress leads to physical stress and diseases, and while this is not a short-term plan, you should look into de-stressing. De-stressing, relaxing when you become aware of how your mental stress leads to acute physical stress or muscle tightness can also help prevent neck and shoulder pains. At the end of the day or during your busy workday, the de-stressing exercises are more critical in people with a desk or intense physical activity relying jobs.
- Keep yourself warm: Sometimes, our pain can result from cold conditions paired with physical exercise or muscle deterioration in general. Most people ignore how good warmth can be for relaxing your muscles. Keeping your neck and shoulders warm with a scarf, heat pads, and other heating modes can prove highly beneficial in pain relief. This also means that if you're looking for a mattress or pillow for neck and shoulder pain relief, a slightly warmer sleeping experience is better. A memory foam pillow or a mattress with memory foam quilting can help keep your shoulder and neck muscles warm enough to be comfortable without leading to discomfort or overheating.
Neck and shoulder pain relief stretches and exercises:
The pandemic has reduced all of us to work from home from desks in different positions. Some work from the bed, some from incompatible office or home chairs, and some use harmful incompatible mattresses. These factors can leave short and long-term damage to our neck and shoulder muscles, often leading to severe pains.
While there is only so much you can plan for the long-term, bearing neck and shoulder pain when it starts is no joke. Sometimes the pain is too unbearable; you're rendered unable to move or even walk/sit. This also happens with our back, and you have to wait it out in the back scenario. However, there are some stretches and exercises you can do to get temporary relief from neck and shoulder pain:
- Neck stretches: Here are some exercises and tips to follow if you're looking for neck pain relief.:
a. Loosen up your body by de-stressing and becoming aware of any tension you're holding. Please follow all these home remedies at a slow pace that doesn't further intensify the pain with sudden movements.
b. If you have neck pain, moving it can be difficult based on the location. First, tilt your head forward and try to touch your chest with your chin, and keep it there for 5-10 seconds.
c. Now do the opposite and look upwards for 5-10 seconds towards the ceiling/sky.
d. Tilt your head to your right and left side for 5-10 seconds each with some gap in between.
e. Look to your left and right for 5-10 seconds with your eyes looking forward.
f. Repeat till there's some relief.
- Shoulder stretches:
a. Use a doorway for shoulder stretching by standing in between.
b. Bend your arms upward at a right angle and hold the door frame with both hands.
c. With this posture, gently and slowly lean forward.
d. Hold the posture for 5-10 seconds, and you can also try leaning backward. This exercise stretches your shoulder blade muscles and can offer relief in a short time.
- Stretching after exercise: Sometimes, even exercise can be a cause of neck and shoulder pain and may result in pinched nerves. These issues happen because of the build-up of lactic acid in our muscles during exercise. While you may not notice pain immediately, sometimes it may not be DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). It may be a pain because of an injury or a wrong posture, and the best way to get rid of these issues is to stretch after you finish your workout. A five-minute stretching procedure targeting all areas of your body like legs, chest, biceps, neck, and shoulders is a must after a high-intensity workout. This practice not only helps you get better results from your workout but tells your muscles it's time to cool down, which prevents muscle pinching, soreness, and other issues.
Best Type of Mattress for Neck and Shoulder Pain:
Different mattresses can help with your neck and shoulder pain. Firmness levels aside, your mattress's support and comfort levels are what determine how it relieves your neck and shoulder pain.
Here are the different kinds of mattresses that people with neck and shoulder pain should opt for:
- Orthopedic memory foam mattress: Your spine, neck, and shoulders need to relax in a neutral position that supports them differently. That is, when you're sleeping on your side, your spine needs to relax in a straight horizontal position, and sleeping without support would cause different alignments. In this scenario, you're also sleeping on your side, which means your spine and the vertebrae passing through the neck need support and proper alignment too. As a result of the necessity of your spine needing support in either of the sleeping positions, support is something you cannot ignore. An orthopedic memory foam mattress addresses both problems of less support and plushness for side sleeping and comfort. By sleeping on the side, your spine still gets adequate support from either an innerspring or ortho foam support system, and you can say goodbye to shoulder pains with a plush comfort layer.
a. Medium-firm memory foam ortho: A soft or ultra-soft memory foam mattress won't be adequate, and a medium-firm memory foam orthopedic mattress would be the best solution. If you're looking for a full-foam mattress, a memory foam mattress with an ortho core can help you feel supported and have adequate comfort and plushness to sleep on your sides. The ortho foam core would provide full-body support, and the medium-firm memory foam would enhance this support providing comfort to your shoulders.
b. Medium-firm memory foam pocket coil: A pocket coil innerspring mattress would be an even better option for maximum comfort and support. The innerspring pocket coil system is the best at providing contouring support and is very comforting for painful backs, especially the neck and shoulders. The medium-firm high-density memory foam comfort layer provides plushness and contouring that helps you relax your shoulders and neck. Using the right pillow is quintessential, but the mattress supports and comforts your shoulders and provides excellent support to your spine as per your bodyweight distribution.
- Plush Bonnell Coil mattress: A Bonnell coil mattress is ideal for overweight/obese people that need more support than other innerspring or ortho foam mattresses could handle. Additionally, it is also an excellent choice for athletic or older people who prefer a firm surface with a plush comfort layer. While the comfort layer might not allow excessive sinking, the level of surface firmness allows one to jump in and out of bed quickly without strain on your back. When one gets up from a Bonnell coil mattress, the spine, and indirectly your neck and shoulder, face minimum pressure and is a good option for injuries, muscle deterioration, and severe neck and shoulder pains. Moreover, a Bonnell coil mattress provides uniform full-body support, therefore providing more support to your back and shoulders. If you prefer sleeping on your back and still have painful shoulders and neck due to injuries or other factors, a Bonnell coil mattress with a plush comfort layer would be highly beneficial. The medium-firm comfort layer still allows you to feel relaxed and comforted, but the overall support and firmness are on the higher end.
- Latex foam mattress: Since latex is highly configurable in terms of its surface firmness, a medium-firm surface on a latex foam mattress is just as helpful for neck and shoulder pains. Latex foam offers a bouncy surface that doesn't allow your neck and shoulder muscles to 'sink' in the mattress, preventing posture pains from worsening. Moreover, latex foam in the support layer helps contour your body and enhance the support from beneath it, making it a pleasurable sleeping experience in different positions. If you're looking for a mattress for all age groups and offers a better balance of comfort and support, a latex mattress is the best option. The medium-firm surface allows sinking just enough to allow your shoulders pain-free sleep, and the support layer makes sure your spine or shoulders don't misalign or sink beyond the point of comfort.
What should be the Ideal Firmness/Softness Level:
The ideal firmness for neck and shoulder pains is medium-firm, firm, or if the pain is less severe, even medium soft. As long as there is adequate support in your mattress and the surface allows your shoulders some freedom to sink in without the spine sinking (both the upper back and neck area), the mattress is a great option. Here is how different firmness levels suit your body and work to relieve neck and shoulder pain:
- Medium-firm: A medium-firm mattress is the best case and most widely recommended option for neck and shoulder pains (especially back pain). This is because your mattress surface is firm enough to support your neck and shoulder tissues and relieve tension piled up during the day. Irrespective of the severity, a medium-firm mattress suits everyone enough to accommodate a medium-firm pillow, allow your neck muscles and neck vertebrae to rest in a neutral position. A medium-firm mattress is also suitable for a wide variety of people of different ages.
- Firm: A firm mattress is suitable for people with little body fat around the neck and shoulder regions but helpful for severe pains. Usually suitable for athletes and young adults or older people with severe neck and shoulder pains, a firm mattress offers excellent support. The pressure points of your neck and shoulder when sleeping on the back experience excellent support and adequate comfort. A firm mattress for neck and shoulder pain wouldn't be as comfortable or recommended for side sleepers, but it would be excellent for spinal or neck and shoulder pain for back sleepers.
- Medium-soft: A medium-soft mattress that would be just right for people with lower body weight and less body fat in general. Young adults that work long hours or have stronger muscles, in general, would find a medium-soft mattress comfortable to relax and sleep in. A support system that contours and supports your body or offers contouring plushness and comfort when sleeping on the side are even better. Usually, a dual comfort mattresses with a medium-soft or medium-firm configuration would be best in such a scenario because of the supportive core. A medium-soft mattress would also keep your body from sinking in too deep and help cushion and relieve pain from your tensed-up shoulder muscles.
Best mattresses for neck and shoulder pain:
While different configurations and mattress types suit everyone, neck and shoulder pain-relieving mattresses also come in different firmness levels. These mattresses provide short and long-term comfort based on the firmness levels, support, and overall comfort for your shoulder and back muscles. It would help if you used our SleepID tool to get an idea of which mattress suits your body type best:
- Physiopedic: The Physiopedic mattress offers full-body contouring support, which is essential in upholding your shoulder muscles and neck. As a memory foam-based medium-firm and pocket coil innerspring mattress, the PhysioPedic is one of the best options for relief from neck and shoulder pain. The innerspring pocket coil system allows you to sleep in any direction with support for different regions of your body as per the bodyweight distribution.
The PhysioPedic has a high-density memory foam comfort layer that relaxes your muscles and focuses on your entire body for a pressure-relieving and calming sleeping experience. While the innerspring coil layer at the bottom offers contouring support throughout, NewSupport foam in the support layer enhances this support and offers comfort when you sleep on the side.
This support layer function is beneficial when sleeping on the side as it neutralizes the reactive pressure your shoulder blades and muscles face. Excellent for both your back and shoulders, the PhysioPedic mattress also keeps your spine in proper alignment and its natural S shape. The PhysioPedic is a hybrid mattress suitable for all age groups and is also a Dr. recommended orthopedic memory foam mattress.
PhysioPedic mattress for neck and shoulder pain relief is also an excellent back support and back pain relief mattress. It sports a thick edge protection layer around the edges to help you get easy and exert less pressure and pain on your spine and your neck and shoulder muscles. When everything from getting up and sleeping in this mattress offers a pain-free experience, it is bound to keep your body in excellent shape for years to come.
- Chiropedic 5000: The Chiropedic 5000 is a medium-firm Bonnell coil mattress that keeps the issue of a flat surface being uncomfortable in mind. The Bonnell coil spring system provides full-body support, and the pillow-top construction helps make the mattress plush and comfortable for your shoulders. The pillow-top layer also offers a slightly warm sleeping experience that offers heat and contouring plushness to your shoulder and neck muscles.
The memory foam quilting relieves pressure and keeps your body warm and comfortable. As a ICA recommended orthopedic Bonnell coil mattress, the Chiropedic 5000 is also exceptionally good for back support. Ideal for back sleepers, the Chiropedic 5000 also comes with its spinal alignment feature. As a result, you get pain-free nights where you can sleep in comfort and have the mattress look after your posture. It also comes with an edge protection layer that protects the mattress for years and helps you get up quickly with no strain. Athletes, older adults, and slightly overweight people with neck and shoulder pain would find the Chiropedic 5000 best for pain relief.
- Gravity: The Gravity mattress is a full foam mattress with an ortho-foam core to support your back and shoulder blades. Perfect for pain relief, the Gravity mattress is a medium-firm orthopedic mattress with memory foam quilting for pressure relief. Moreover, the high-density memory foam in its support layer helps comfort and enhance the support from an ultra-firm core.
Best suited for the Indian body type, if you're looking for a mattress offering pain relief and back support, the Gravity mattress also excels at offering a comfortable sleep. The high-density memory foam layers in the comfort and support layer keep your body in a pressure-neutral state without sinking. It also offers a slightly warm sleeping experience, and the open-cell memory foam allows it to keep overheating issues at bay. The Gravity mattress is ideal for middle-aged or young adults who want a supportive pure foam ortho mattress. Relieving pressure from your back and shoulder muscles at the end of the day, the Gravity mattress is an excellent Dr recommended medium-firm orthopedic mattress.
- Paradise: With 100% natural latex, the Paradise mattress is a medium soft latex mattress that is best for many people and helps relieve pain like a pro masseuse. While the top of this mattress has its high-density memory foam quilting to ensure maximum pressure relief from your tired muscles, latex foam functions by supporting.
A two-inch-thick latex foam support layer helps keep your body afloat, adequately supported in any position and enhances the support from a high-density HR foam core. The heavy GSM knitted fabric protects the mattress from any environmental factors, and the memory foam quilting helps you sleep easily without any pain. The unique high-density HR foam core offers full-body support, and if you're looking for more support towards your upper (for shoulders) or lower back, Paradise offers the best support.
The latex foam also makes this mattress hypoallergenic and long-lasting (10-15 years), making you getting used to a pain-relief sleep the way you deserve. Paradise also offers enhanced sleep quality as a luxury mattress because of its well-thought configuration to offer relief from the moment you sit or settle into bed.
- YouBed: The You Bed is a medium soft flippable mattress that is more suited for adults or young adults with mild to moderate neck and shoulder pain. If you're looking for a mattress that is not too hard or lacks support as a soft mattress, the You Bed is the best choice. It is a dual-comfort mattress with both sides usable and a medium-soft PU foam quilting on either side.
The HR foam core layer ensures that you don't damage your posture and offers full-body support, including your shoulder area.
You Bed relies on its medium-soft configuration to offer just enough pressure relief and support to prevent neck and shoulder pain. Although both sides are the same configuration, you can use its dual-comfort feature to flip the mattress if one starts to show temporary body impressions because of body weight. The You Bed also has a denim side rim and handles to allow easy flipping making it easier for you to flip the mattress and not lead to physical stress on your neck and shoulders.
Your neck and shoulder muscles are the least exercised parts of the body. When you start any gym or working out, it is your shoulder exercises that need the most focus. That is why our neck and shoulder areas face more issues than other parts of our body and have more pain occurrences, even with a posture that may not look lousy on the outside. A mattress can help relieve tension from your shoulder and keep your spine in perfect posture for your neck to feel at ease too.
A mattress that helps relieve neck and shoulder pain always supports all parts of your back and helps keep your neck muscles at ease. It would help if you also looked at a suitable pillow that doesn't feel too soft or too hard. You can use our NeckAlign pillow, Recharge pillow for cervical issues, and Gravity pillow for mild to moderate neck and shoulder pains.