Should You Put Heat On A Stiff Neck?

Neck Pain Relief Stiff neck suffers, will hear conflicting advice on whether you should put cold or put heat on a stiff neck.

And, it really depends on whether the sore neck is an acute problem or a chronic one. A general rule of thumb is to ice for acute pain and heat for chronic pain.

Heat will increase blood flow when applied to the skin so can be invaluable for treating chronic neck pain and poorly healed neck injuries.

Waking up with a stiff neck caused during sleep process

A stiff neck often caused by sleeping in a draft or awkward position will also benefit from the application of heat. As heat penetrates the painful area, blood circulation increases due to the dilation of blood vessels. This increase in blood flow reduces inflammation, brings extra oxygen and carries away waste and toxins. As this process takes place, pain will reduce.

Heat should not be used on an acute neck injury or where discoloration or swelling is present as it may increase internal bleeding.

Water is a more effective heat conductor than air and the neck can tolerate moist heat at a temperature higher than that of dry heat. Many people use hot water bottles for neck pain relief. The bottle should be half filled and the excess air removed helping it conform more easily to the body. The temperature should be checked to make sure it isn’t too hot and wrapping a towel or cover around it will make it safer and more comfortable.

A hot shower with the shower head directed on the painful area can also provide relief for stiff neck. While soaking in a hot tub is traditionally a method for soothing aches and pains, lying in a tub does not promote good neck posture.

Products On The Market Aimed At Relieving Stiff Neck

There are a variety of products on the market designed to give neck pain relief. Specialized neck wraps containing gel can be heated by using a microwave or by soaking in boiling water for a set period. These wraps are designed to prevent burning and mould to the contours of the neck for maximum pain relief.

Herbal neck wraps, containing spices and herbs such as ginger, black pepper and juniper berries can be heated in a microwave and will dispense moist heat and the relaxing properties of the herbs.

Neck roll pillows, providing a contour that supports the natural cervical spine curvature can be found with optional non-toxic heat pack inserts. Made from memory foam these pillows mould around the neck and retain heat.

Electrical heating pads are also available and mould well to body contours due to  flexibility. They can cause irritation or burning if set too high and if you fall asleep. And, some electric heating pads may use dry heat, it is best to purchase models with moist heating pads for soothing penetrating heat.

There are a number of topical products designed to create heat on painful areas. Some may cause a numbing sensation and prevent the patient from feeling exactly how hot they are. Products such as Deep Heat containing menthol can be used with caution if applied to cool skin as they have been known to create a burning sensation when the skin is warm.

Some herbal-based products are gentler on the skin and if applied after using heat therapy will penetrate deeper through the skin.

Heat is a useful medium in relieving neck pain as long as it is used carefully and safely. So, go ahead- use heat on that stiff neck.

Therapeutic Pillows Good Spine Alignment

Therapeutic pillows

Sleep Joy ViscoFresh Memory Foam

Therapeutic pillows for sleeping that keep good spine alignment is a smart step to preventing neck pain and stiffness when you wake up. When selecting a pillow, not only comfort should be considered, but also consider whether it can provide proper support for the neck and spine to prevent damage and aggravation of any existing problems.

Good posture is essential through both day and night and using a suitable pillow will reduce pressure on the head and neck and keep the body in the correct spine alignment throughout the night. It is useful to have a pillow which can be adjusted to suit individual shape and curvature.

Therapeutic Pillows Reduce Head Pressure

A pillow should mold to your shape to relieve pressure points and maintain a suitable height of 4 to 6 inches to properly support the head and neck. Any higher and it can create a muscular strain on the back of the neck and shoulders when sleeping on the back and side.

Suitable therapeutic pillows should be firm and offer support. Fillings such as cotton, wool and memory foam offer good support, while feather pillows, however romantic, can be too soft. Grain or buckwheat pillows are very effective and comfortable when used for people with spinal conditions.

Support Pillow, White, Allergy-Free

Body length pillows are useful for those who sleep on their sides as they support the head and neck as well as the legs and knees at the same time. These pillows give greater comfort than using separate pillows. They also offer abdominal support for pregnancy or obesity, preventing the abdomen from lying on the mattress and twisting the spine out of alignment.

Clinton Positioning Pillow, Wedge, 18 x 24 x 6, Cream

Pillows supporting the knees are often wedge shaped and designed to relieve neck and back pressure. When lying on the back the pillow should sit under the knees to reduce pressure on the lower back. When lying on the side, the pillow should sit between the knees, preventing the uppermost leg from rotating downwards and twisting the spine.

Therapeutic Pillows Support The Neck

Orthopedic or neck pillows are shaped to fill the spaces under the head and neck and provide a deeper depression where the head lies than conventional pillows. This gives extra support to the neck, and helps with proper spine alignment, and provides both comfort and relief to those with existing neck injuries.

Jobri Travel Memory Pillows,

“U” shaped travel pillows fit snugly round the neck and offer support when sleeping upright, preventing the head from tipping to one side and relieving the muscles that keep the head up.

Lower back or lumbar support pillows are useful when sitting for long periods, filling the gap between the lower spine and the back of the chair and preventing the spine from slouching. Also useful when driving or as a passenger in a car, they support the lumbar region and aid the spinal shock absorbing ability by keeping it in correct alignment.

Careful choosing of the right types of therapeutic pillows for individual needs will ensure that the body is given the opportunity to rest the best way it can and in a correct spine alignment position, essential for good health and comfortable sleep.

How Long Do You Leave Ice On A Stiff Neck?

ice for neck pain 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.

If 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

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.

Acupressure For Neck Pain

acupressure for neck painAcupressure for neck pain is an alternative choice when you aren’t a huge fan of contemporary medicine and you, unfortunately,  feel some discomfort with your neck, you might want to check it out. Acupressure is an ancient form of touch therapy that makes use of the principles and art of acupuncture and Chinese healing. It involves using the fingers to press certain points on the body surface that can trigger your body to release chemicals in the brain that can naturally provide you with neck pain relief.

How Acupressure For Neck Pain Works

When the key acupressure points are identified and pressed, endorphins are released by the brain which work like a natural morphine. It paves way for letting loose of the discomforting muscular tension, promotes blood circulation, and stimulates your body’s natural-healing abilities.

Acupressure for neck pain, or any pain, as opposed to acupuncture which utilizes needles, makes use of gentle, yet firm, pressure of the hands and perhaps also the feet. But basically, acupressure and acupuncture use the same key points within the body.

Acupressure is particularly effective since studies have shown that stimulating the acupressure points for neck pain can stop the delivery of pain impulses from the spine to the brain. Study has it that these points possess a lower resistance to electrical current. Thus, stimulating them can actually alter electrical activity.

Acupressure Points

Each acupressure point basically possesses different characteristics and ways of functioning. A local point is where you actually feel pain or tension and you can, with acupressure, stimulate that particular point. Actually, that same point can provide relief to a different part of the body, and in that case, the local point becomes the trigger point. In Chinese medicine, acupressure points are parts of the body in which the flow of Qi or Energy and blood can be manipulated to control bodily functions to give further pain relief.

The Point For Acupressure For Neck Pain

You can easily spot the point for applying acupressure for neck pain relief. The acupressure point for your stiff neck is actually situated at the back of your hand, in between the bones on the hollow surface behind the knuckles of the first and middle finger.

Don’t zero in on the precise location of a point. Consider each point as being at the center of a circle with the width of around three fingers. Direct pressure on any point inside the circle will have an impact on the main point. Additionally, put as much pressure as it takes to make you comfortable. Hold it for about a minute until you feel an increase in warmth, a pulsation, or a softening of a certain tissue or muscle.

You can stimulate the acupressure points for stiff neck pain relief simply by using finger pressure which is as good as acupuncture. Firm and gentle pressure from your finger or thumb can make you feel instantly relaxed.

Unfortunately, you cannot entirely rid yourself of the neck pain by the mere use of acupressure. It is just a temporary type of a ‘first aid treatment’ and the effects of acupressure for neck pain are semi-permanent.

Best Way To Sleep To Avoid Neck Pain

Best way to sleep to avoid neck painBest way to sleep when you are plagued with irritating neck pain and neck tension, and avoid aggravating your existing pain is to change sleeping positions or use sleeping aids such as specially designed pillows. While there are some neck pain causes that you can’t control, such as aging and wear-and-tear, you can help to minimize or prevent neck pain while you sleep. And that’s good news.

 Positioning The Best Way To Sleep To Avoid Neck Pain

Considering that you spend six to ten hours in bed, finding the best position to sleep in to prevent or minimize neck pain is rather essential. The two sleeping positions that work best are on your back or on your side.

Stomach-sleeping arches the back, making it tough on your spine. It also keeps your neck turned to the side, which can lead to increased neck stiffness and pain in the morning.

For most of us, we developed certain sleep habits and have our favorite sleep positions that we have been using since we were kids. And, if we start off in a better sleep position to reduce neck pain, chances are we are going to wake up in our favorite position in the morning!

But, if you can at least start off sleeping on your side or back, it’s at least a step in the right direction. And, even in the right position it is important to get the right support in pillows.

Pillows Help The Best Way To Sleep To Avoid Neck Pain

Pillows are very important in you are looking for the best way to sleep to avoid neck pain. Choose the wrong pillow and you can end up with more pain than you started off with.

If you sleep on your back, you need to make sure you have the right pillow to support your neck in the right places. You really need to steer clear of pillow that are high and stiff. These will keep your neck in a flexed position overnight and you will wake up with more pain and stiffness.

Dynatronics Concept 2000 Pillow, Medium

Because you have a natural curve to your neck, you should choose a round pillow to support that and a flatter pillow to cushion your head.  You can buy a special pillow that has built-in neck support and that is indented for your head to rest in. Or, you can tuck a small neck pillow into the pillowcase of a pillow that is softer and flatter.

Another option is to use a feather pillow. A feather pillow conforms easily to the shape of your neck. The bad thing about feather pillows is that they tend to ‘collapse’ over time and should be replaced each year. In the ‘old days’, housewives used to open the feather pillows, wash the feathers and add more inside new pillow ticking.

A more modern option is a memory-foam pillow. The memory foam conforms to the contour of your neck and head, providing support in the right places. You can even get cervical pillows that are made with memory foam. Memory foam pillows are purported to encourage proper spinal alignment while you sleep.

Best Pillow For Side Sleepers

Avoid Neck Pain

Side-sleeping is another best way to sleep to avid neck pain. If you are a side sleeper, you should look for a pillow that is higher under your neck than your head. This helps to keep your spine in good alignment. Another pillow you should have is a flatter pillow that you can put between your knees to also help in keeping your spine aligned. Full-length body pillows are great for draping your arm and leg over to maintain a healthy spinal alignment.

Best Neck Pillow For Leisure And Travel

If you are someone who spends time reclined in a lounge chair, you may want to invest in a cervical neck pillow that is shaped like a horseshoe. This helps to support your neck and prevent tilting your head from one side to another.

Jobri Travel Memory Pillows, BetterNeck Neck, 13w x 10l x 3h, Ivory

Sammons Preston Heels-Off, Medium/Large, 7.5H x 24W x 17D

The cervical pillow is also great for travel. Take it on the plane or train or in the car. Be careful not to get a pillow that is too big as it may force your head forward which will worsen your neck pain. When traveling, you can’t always find the best way to sleep to avoid neck pain but the cervical pillow should help.