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How To Sleep After Cervical Neck Surgery ?

How To Sleep After Cervical Neck Surgery

Cervical neck surgery is sometimes necessary to reduce pain and restore stability of the spine. In addition, you may need neck surgery if you sustained a spinal injury or have an age-related degenerative condition like osteoarthritis.

After surgery, it is normal to feel pain, especially for the first few days, and it can get worse when you sleep when you don’t assume a good position. However, sleep helps your body recover swiftly, so you need it. Therefore, you have to sleep in the best position to prevent worsening pain or developing re-injury.

This article evaluates different sleeping positions after cervical neck surgery and how physical therapy in Merrick can help speed up your recovery.

When Is Cervical Neck Surgery Necessary?

Cervical neck surgery may be necessary when you feel neck pain or limited neck motion, or have pain and weakness in your arms resulting from spinal nerve or cord dysfunction. The surgery restores spinal stability and reduces pain.

After the surgery, it is normal to feel sore. The soreness and stiffness wear off after a few weeks. It is essential to follow post-operative care instructions to prevent re-injury and speed up your recovery.

Why Is Your Sleeping Position After Cervical Neck Surgery Important?

Cervical neck surgery involves incisions on your neck and a bandage dressing to prevent bleeding. When sleeping you may accidentally move your neck incorrectly, so initially you may be wearing a brace or callar to restrict your motion . Although there are several sleeping positions after undergoing cervical neck surgery, sleeping on your back is the best.

In addition, regardless of your sleeping position, it is best always to protect your neck. Keeping your legs, spine, and neck aligned is essential.

Sleeping Positions After Cervical Neck Surgery

On Your Side

You can sleep on your side after cervical neck surgery. Putting a pillow between your knees offer cervical comfort. However, if you have to roll to sleep on your back, ensure you remove the pillows first.

The best pillow to use after your surgery should be made out of foam. Stiff pillows can cause discomfort. Also, a high or flat pillow may increase the risk of injuring your neck.


You can sleep upright in a recliner or a seat with lumbar support. This position aligns your lower back when you sleep. Nevertheless, ensure that the recliner is spacious so you don’t fall to the ground. You can also hold your body in place with a buckle to prevent slumping over if your seat is small.

When sleeping upright, use a small pillow for your lower back and a u-shaped pillow for your neck. You should also avoid slumping your head forward to prevent cutting off the blood supply to your brain. Leaning forward also pressurizes the arteries in your neck region, leading to pressure on the disks and neck muscles.

Furthermore, you can support your spine with a firm and non-fluffy pillow. Also, avoid placing your chair or recliner near a window. That may make you lean to the side and cause neck pain.

On Your Stomach

Sleeping on your stomach is not ideal after any surgery, including neck surgery. This sleeping position can lead to complications and may cause significant harm when you twist your head during sleep.

If you must sleep on your stomach, place a pillow under your hips or pelvis and another under your chest. This lifts your neck and reduces strain and pressure on your lower back.

On Your Back

Although sleeping on your back is the most recommended position, you still must be careful. You should avoid interlocking your fingers at the back of your head for support when sleeping. That unevenly aligns your spine and neck, leading to injuries and complications.

You may need to wear a cervical collar or use an orthopedic pillow to bed to limit excessive movement. Place your arms on either side of your body to prevent straining your neck and shoulders when sleeping.

If you have to roll to change your position during sleep, support yourself on one elbow, keeping your back, shoulder, and neck straight.

How to Get Out of Bed

Getting out of bed is just as important as getting in bed after cervical neck surgery. When getting out of bed, tuck your arms to one side and then roll over to the edge of the bed. It would be best to push your body’s upper half using your elbow to prevent moving your head harshly while lifting yourself.

When sitting up straight, lift yourself slowly while moving your feet simultaneously. You can use a pain reliever if you feel pain or soreness in your neck.

What Do You Need to Sleep After Your Cervical Neck Surgery?

Supportive Mattress

A soft or old mattress is not great for your spine. It does not provide optimal support for your neck and spine. In addition, you will slump into a soft mattress, and your back will bow unnaturally, placing pressure on your neck. Investing in a new mattress before your neck surgery is best if yours is soft, old, or lumpy.


It would be best to have at least two pillows after neck surgery—one for your head and the other for below your knees. You may also get extra pillows to prop yourself up.

Your pillows also have to be supportive and high-quality. It is best to buy new pillows for quality support. Old and misshapen pillows can cause more harm post-operation

Adjustable Bed Frame

An adjustable bed frame allows you to prop yourself up at the touch of a button. Moreover, sleeping with your head elevated will prevent you from rolling around in your sleep. It will also be easier to get out of bed unassisted.

Neck Collar

A neck collar may not be comfortable, but it supports your head when you sleep. Moreover, it is easy to nod your neck when sleeping and wake up in pain. But with a neck collar, you can keep your neck in place, reducing discomfort when you wake up.

How To Sit After Cervical Neck Surgery

Sitting stresses your back and, consequently, your neck. When sitting, you must maintain your natural spinal curve to minimize stress. It would be best if you sat on a chair that fits you and supports your lower back. Your feet should also be flat on the floor and your knees on the same level as your hips.

After your cervical neck surgery, avoid sitting on soft chairs or couches that let your hips drop below your knees. And if your chair is too high, you can place your feet on a small stool to sit properly. It is also best to take frequent breaks every 30 to 45 minutes. Standing up and stretching are ideal.

Do You Need Physical Therapy After Cervical Neck Surgery?

Physical therapy after your cervical neck surgery can speed up your recovery and prevent re-injury. In addition, your physical therapist can educate you on the best sleeping techniques to ease your pain and prevent complications. You will also undergo a treatment plan that improves your range of motion, restore strength, and strengthen your postural flexibility.

When Can You Start Exercising After Cervical Neck Surgery?

When Can You Start Exercising After Cervical Neck Surgery?

Your physical therapist takes your health into account before creating a treatment plan. Therefore, rehabilitative exercises occur in stages, and the intensity increases as your body heals. The phases of activity after your cervical neck surgery include;

Protective Exercise Phase

This phase focuses on your wound healing. During the first four weeks post-procedure, your physical therapist educates you on the best techniques for getting in and out of bed, sitting, and carrying out light tasks. You will also undergo gentle exercises to improve your range of motion.

Strengthening Exercise Phase

This phase consists of passive and active treatments to speed up your recovery. During weeks 4 to 8 post-surgery, your physical therapist will prescribe exercises that strengthen the muscles around your surgical incision and the muscles that stabilize your spine.

In addition, your physical therapist will review your posture and increase the intensity of your exercises to improve your endurance.

Return To Normal Activity Exercise Phase

You should be able to return to your normal activities and start exercising 12 weeks after your cervical neck surgery. Your physical therapist will certify that you are ready to return to normal activities. In addition, your physical therapist will prescribe neck flexion, endurance, and extension exercises that you can continue yourself.

What Should You Not Do After Cervical Neck Surgery?

It is best to avoid strenuous activities till your doctor certifies you to. For example, aerobic exercises, jogging, and bicycle riding are not ideal. Instead, you can take walks but ensure you rest whenever you feel exhausted.

Furthermore, avoid taking long car trips until at least four weeks post-surgery. You should also avoid positions that require you to sit for too long.


Cervical neck surgery helps to improve spinal stability. Still, you must be extra careful after your procedure to prevent re-injury and surgical complications. In addition, how you sleep, sit, and carry out your daily activities impacts your healing.

The Physical Therapists at Summit Physical Therapy in Merrick seek to help you speed up your recovery without developing complications. Your physical therapist will create a customized treatment plan to help you heal. The treatment plan includes education on how to sit, sleep, and carry out your daily activities.

Summit Physical Therapy