How Long Do You Leave Ice On A Stiff Neck?

ice for neck pain

Neck Ice Wrap by Pro Ice

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Neck Pain Relief
Neck Ice Wrap by Pro Ice

Using ice is a cheap effective way to relieve stiff neck pain. Known as cryotherapy by the medical profession it is a useful tool when tissue is damaged and/or inflamed. It is a natural analgesic with the ability to numb nerve endings, slowing metabolic activity and constricting capillaries.

Ice is commonly used during the initial stages of minor neck injury or stiffness when the skin may be red and hot, sensitive to the touch or there may be swelling. It is also helpful with chronic overuse injuries and inflammatory arthritis.

Ice is a short- term solution and may stimulate minor tissue healing processes. If used carefully it can bring almost instant relief from pain. Care must be taken however not to damage the tissue with prolonged use of ice causing frostbite. So, it is important to know how long to leave ice on a stiff neck. And the answer is- it depends. It depends on the type of ‘ice’ you use.

Gel Packs for Cryotherapy And Neck Pain

Gel ice packs and bags can provide cold relief quickly. Ice cups; such as the CRYOCUPÔ provide bare ice applied directly to the skin, melting water into crevices, which conducts heat away from the skin. Ice cubes held in a dishtowel can be effective for small areas even bags of frozen peas also give good results on larger areas.

Medical ice packs which are crushed to activate, can be convenient though not as effective as raw ice. Those with cold-sensitivity may find raw ice too uncomfortable and should use covered ice packs, using a dish cloth or similar if a homemade ice pack is being used.

Elasto-Gel Cervical Collar Wrap - Fibromyalgia Pain ReliefIf deeper tissues require healing then gentler, slower cooling is required and this is where ice packs rather than raw ice are more suitable.

There are specialized cryotherapy devices, often found in sports injury clinics that use a cooler, water and a pad applied to the skin. When this eventually warms, the device can be reactivated to cool the pad down.  These are safe to leave on the skin due to the warming effect.

Using Straight Ice for Neck Pain

Pro Ice® Scapula/Cervical Collar Wrap

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Pro Ice® Scapula
Cervical Collar Wrap

The rule of thumb for safety when using raw ice is when the skin becomes numb it is time to stop.

It is important to keep moving raw ice in a steady pattern over the inflamed area. Massage for 1-3 minutes or until it is numb then let the tissue warm up. Once it has warmed up the process can be repeated as often as required.

Tissue damage only occurs after sustained use, long after the skin has gone numb. When the signs of injury begin to fade, the icing process should be discontinued.

When using covered ice packs, these can be reapplied as many times as your neck pain requires, for 48-72 hours or until the inflammation is reduced. Once again, if the skin begins to numb, remove the pack and allow the tissues to warm up. One last warning- it is important not to fall asleep when using an ice pack.