Edwina’s stiff neck prevents her sleeping

June 17, 2016

I have had stiff muscles in my neck for a couple of years now.  I have had sessions with Physiotherapy and Chiropractors, but with no success.

The pain doesn’t bother me much during the day.  I can garden and do all household chores with no trouble – but it’s when I lay down in my bed that the pain starts – not in my neck but at the base of my scull.  It’s really painful and if I want to turn over during the night  I have to actually turn my head with my hands so as not to cause too much pain.

Why is this happening to me?  I am 74 years old and also have some arthritic pain in my hands.  Is this head pain just ‘old age’, or can something be done about it.

It’s getting me down because I just don’t ever get a good nights sleep.

June 17, 2016

Hi Edwina

Here’s the deal – when you lie down on a flat surface, your entire spine is being forced into a really straight position – all the curves are being flattened out. When you’re up and about, all the curves return as your not being forced into a “straight” position/posture.

You’ve got a relatively curved middle bit of your back (the joys of being statewomanly and posture!) and to counteract this and stop you looking at the floor, you poke your chin out to see where you’re going.

If you stand really tall (and get rid of the curve in the middle bit of your back) you’ll now notice that you’re looking up, not forwards due to your poking out chin. This is the same when you lie down, and the joints at the top of your neck get compressed and painful – it’s like having your toe stood on…for a long time….everyday.

The muscles in your neck stiffen to attempt to protect this joint at the top of your neck/base of your skull from being compressed….only the add to the problem by increasing the compression. Stretching them doesn’t help (long term) as it doesn’t change the why and just encourage poor posture, as you don’t have the ability make the middle bit of your back move any more.

If you want to feel better (rather than get better) then you need to have more pillows under your head at night, BUT this will (eventually) make the cause worse. If you want to attempt to get better (rather than just feel better) then you need to get more movement through the middle bit of your back and start to regain some control and use of the muscles at the front of your neck (that keep you head on neck in a better, more prolonged position).


Pilates (with a decent instructor, who can explain or understand the above) is a great starting place. I’d even suggest lying on the floor, head on a pillow, knees bent with feet resting on the floor and encouraging you to gently tuck/drawer your chin in a little with your shoulders relaxed. You need to do this daily, once in the morning and once in the evening for 10 minutes. You’ll feel a gentle stretch at the base of your skull. Try holding for 20/30 seconds and repeat after a 10/20 second rest. It absolutely shouldn’t make any symptoms any worse – no dizziness, no nothing!

Old age? No chance!

Guru Responded

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