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Stretches to Ease Sleep-Induced Neck and Back Pain

Try These Neck and Back Stretches After Sleeping on the Wrong Side of the Bed

I swear that my subconscious thinks I'm a professional acrobat. My morning neck and back pain are proof of my many nights spent kicking, turning, and tossing to the point that all blankets and pillows flee the scene.

You don't have to be a sleeping gymnast, like me, to know the pain of waking up on the wrong side of the bed, though. That's because no specific sleeping positions (unless you snooze on a couch, chair, or uncomfortable mattress) cause muscle pain, says Dr. Charla Fischer, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at NYU Langone's Spine Center.

Since there isn't one definitive way to get ahead of sleep-induced muscle soreness (we recommend speaking to your doctor for a more personal evaluation), Fischer suggests easing discomfort by stretching for 5-10 minutes a few times a day.

I can attest to this approach, too. My night tumbling hasn't stopped, but I have felt better since reaching out to Lauren Lyons, an ASTYM-certified physical therapist assistant and certified yoga instructor, for a daily neck and back stretching routine. Here's hoping it helps you, too.

Neck Pain

Upper-Trapezius Stretch

  • Sit up straight in a chair and tuck your chin to your chest — your ears should align with your shoulders.
  • Lift your right arm up and over your head and place your hand on the left side of your head to gently stretch your head to the right side.
  • Hold for 30 seconds before repeating on the opposite side.
  • Repeat 2-3 times per side.

Levator Scapula Stretch

  • Sit up straight in a chair and grasp the edge of the seat with one hand.
  • Rotate your head to the opposite side of your anchored arm before tucking your chin toward your chest.
  • Grasp the back of your head and gently pull it down until you feel a stretch.
  • Hold for 30 seconds before repeating on your opposite side.
  • Repeat 2-3 times per side.

Back Pain

Lumbar Trunk Rotation

  • Lie on your back with both of your knees bent at 90 degrees, so that your feet are planted on the floor.
  • Slowly rotate your knees to the left as far as you can while keeping your shoulders on the floor.
  • Hold for 30 seconds before repeating on your right side.
  • Repeat 2-3 times per side.

Single Knee to Chest

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Bring one knee to your chest while keeping the other foot flat on the floor and your lower back pressed to the floor.
  • Hold for 30 seconds before repeating on the opposite side.
  • Repeat 2-3 times per side.

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