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.

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.

Body Mechanics for Retail Workers

body mechanics for retail workersBody mechanics is cause of neck pain. Body mechanics is a phrase used to describe everyday movements made during normal activities such as sitting, standing, lifting and pulling.  Body mechanics can contribute to neck pain, back problems and other bone and muscle problems if performed incorrectly.

Retail workers are especially prone to neck pain due to incorrect use of body mechanics. But, there are various ways to correctly perform activities if you work in the retail industry to minimize the risk of injury to your neck, back and shoulders.

Wearing shoes that offer support for the arches of your feet as well as your back are important if you stand for long periods of time. Feet should really be placed flat to the floor, kept roughly one foot apart and your back should be held straight. Rest periods are essential if you are on your feet for any length of time.

Body Mechanics and Sit-Down Jobs

If your work involves sitting for lengthy periods, a straight- backed chair should be used with a pillow, or even a rolled-up blanket, for lower back support. Your feet should be positioned flat on the floor. Breaks should be taken regularly to move around. Checkout workers should sit within easy reach of the items they are handling so as to avoid slouching or inappropriate back and spine positioning.

Jobs That Require Lifting

Work activities may involve lifting and it is important to test the load, checking the weight to make sure it can be lifted safely. The back should be kept in a natural curve and bending should take place at the hips or knees. A wide base of support should be maintained to reduce slipping.

Objects should be held closely to your body to reduce back strain and your body should not be twisted. Movements should be kept smooth and not jerky.

Keeping the stomach muscles taut helps the abdominal area to assist in lifting reducing strain on the lower back. Pushing rather than pulling utilizes the body weight safely.

Keeping the lifting area clear of obstacles and pre-planning heavy lifting will minimize the risk of injury. Heavy objects may require the assistance of others and it is important to maintain good communication to reduce the risk of unexpected jerky movements. An assistive device such as a dolly or cart may be required for really heavy objects.

Keeping up Good Body Mechanics in the Work Place

Repetitive lifting should be eliminated wherever possible and loads should be broken up into several smaller loads if possible.

When placing items on low shelves it is best to kneel or squat keeping the back straight. The same applies for retrieving items that should be held close to the body before standing up, using the leg muscles and keeping the back straight. Activities that are above chest level should involve the use of a step stool or long handled reaching tool.

When retrieving items from a grocery cart keep one hand should remain on the cart for support, while you reach with your other arm to pick up the item. Your back should be kept straight while pivoting from the hips, and the leg opposite to the supporting arm should be lifted. Once the item has been picked up the hips should be slowly straightened and the leg lowered.

Paying attention to how you move on the job and being conscientious about proper body mechanics can help you to avoid debilitating neck pain.