Heat treatment for neck pain: benefits & precautions
With more and more younger people engaging in activities that involve bad posture, such as sitting at a computer desk at work, using a phone for multiple hours, or even driving for extended periods of time, the commonality of neck pain has skyrocketed.
And with that, people need a quick and easy fix that comes in the form of heat and cold treatments that provide fast and effective pain relief.
Causes and symptoms of neck pain
Neck pain is a common problem. Incorrect posture strains the muscles of the neck. Osteoarthritis is also a common cause of neck pain. In rare cases, neck pain can be a symptom of a more serious problem. Seek medical attention for neck pain with numbness or loss of strength in the arms or hands, or pain that radiates to the shoulder or down the arm.
What can cause neck pain?
The doctor will help determine the cause of neck pain for sure. The most common causes are:
- Injury to the neck
- Maintaining an unfavorable position during sleep (such as lying on your stomach)
- Sudden muscle movement
- High levels of stress and anxiety
- Using a phone for extended periods of time
- Working at a desk for hours on end.
The symptoms of neck pain are:
- Stiffness in the neck
- Pain during movement
- Radiating pain.
Heat therapy for a sore neck
Heat therapy for neck pain greatly reduces the pain's intensity and quickens the healing and repair processes. Heat improves blood circulation to the area and helps get rid of toxins.
How to apply heat on neck
The variants of applying heat on the neck depending on the methods used. When using a heated massager for the neck, try to run it gently over the area that hurts and the surrounding region.
Using a heating pad for neck pain relief helps to use a soft barrier, like a towel, between your skin and the pad to avoid possibly causing damage to the skin.
An electric heat pad for sore neck could be a great option as it often comes with an automatic timer and an adjustable heat regulator. This helps in avoiding burning and overheating.
Using moist heat for neck pain can be in the form of a wet towel placed on the area. It helps quick absorption, so it does not have to be there too long.
When it’s dangerous to use heat on sore neck
You might want to try a different remedy, other than heat therapy, if you suffer from skin conditions that irritate temperature, if you have heart and/or blood pressure issues, if you are pregnant, or if you have diabetes. Individuals with diabetes have impeded nerve sensations sometimes, meaning they cannot estimate whether the heat is too extreme or not properly.
Heat or ice for neck pain - what to choose?
If you are faced with the decision to choose between heat or ice for sore neck muscles, then the answer is simple: you can use both, and it depends on the following:
If your injury is acute and swollen, go for cold therapy to alleviate swelling and pain.
Heat therapy will provide the right support for you if it is chronic and not associated with any fresh injury. Heat lessens tightness and spasms in joints and muscles and promotes healing.
When utilizing extreme temperatures, there will be risks involved, and they often depend on the type of treatment you choose to go for.
Risks of heat therapy
When using a heat wrap of some kind, if left for long periods of time, it could burn the skin or cause severe irritation. Dehydration is also possible. Be mindful of the temperature you use and the treatment duration to ensure the treatment is working best for you.
Risks of cold therapy
Cold therapy can also harm in many ways, such as by causing frostbite, a cold rash, hypothermia, and even nerve damage. It is also not recommended for individuals with pre-existing heart conditions. Exercise caution when using cryotherapy!
Tips to prevent neck pain
If you've experienced neck pain before and would like that to be your last time, then adhere to the following tips.
1. Adopt better sleeping positions
Better sleeping positions would be either on your side or on your back with your arms not at head level. Laying on your stomach is the most common way of waking up with neck pain.
You may also opt for a firmer bed and ditch the pillow every once in a while.
2. Better posture is the best prevention
Adopt a better posture in all of your activities, so you can have a stronger, healthier spine. To improve your posture, do an exercise near the wall - lean your back against the wall and stand like that for several minutes. Do this several times a day.
3. Improve your working desk
Working at a desk for hours is detrimental to your spine's health, and it is one of the leading causes of neck pain. Make minor improvements to ensure that the desk you use most of the day is not contributing to your pain.
4. Less stress equals less pain
As cliché as it sounds, reducing the stress and anxiety in your life improves your overall health and helps strengthen your body. Experiencing less stress has been proven to be correlated to experiencing less neck pain. It's worth a shot!
5. Use your phone less
Using your phone for long periods of time is directly related to neck pain, as the positions we use the phone in often put pressure on our spine in unnatural ways. Your neck needs adequate rest.
6. Stay active
Engaging in some neck exercises daily, even for a little while, can greatly improve the health of your neck, especially when you spend long hours at the desk or on your computer.
With just about everyone, at any age, falling victim to neck pain at some point, we now not only have the right information to avoid being the next victim but also on the methods to remain healthy and keep such pain at bay.