I seem to be having a run of clients who are having neck issues, including one who has been having terrible headaches. With each of these people it has turned out to be their pillow that is the cause of the problems.
So I decided I’d like to talk to you about your pillow. If you sleep on your side, you’re head-neck-spine needs to be in a straight line. If your pillow is too thin (even just a little bit) then your head is tilted toward the mattress for hours, and if your pillow is too thick, then your head is tilted up toward the ceiling. Also, since the SCM turns your head in the opposite direction, if your head is turned even a little, the SCM is contracted the entire time you are sleeping. If you sleep on your back then you only need a little support at the back of your neck – your head and back should just be resting easily on the mattress. If you sleep with a pillow under your head you are then tilting your chin/head down toward your chest and causing the anterior neck muscles to shorten while you sleep.
If you sleep on your stomach you are doing the worst possible thing for your neck, and also hurting your low back. Your head is totally turned to the side for hours at a time, and when you try to turn your head over to the other side the tight muscles are putting a great deal of tension on your cervical vertebrae. The pull on the bones will cause your cervical vertebrae to go out of alignment, and the rest of your spinal column will also be twisted, causing a list of other problems all the way your low back — which will then negatively impact your hips and all the way to your knees! It’s a bit involved to change the way you sleep, but in this case it’s really worthwhile. I suggest you lie on your side (watch your pillow and the tilt of your head) get a long body-pillow and cradle it to you when your are sleeping, this will help to prevent you from turning over onto your stomach.
It’s worth the time to look at the position of your head while you’re sleeping to make sure your skull and entire spine is in a straight line while you sleep.
Wishing you well,