by Alan Jordan
When you suffer from neck pain, you may be tempted to reach for an ice pack or apply heat to the area in the hope of relieving the pain. While this can be an effective treatment in some cases, it is not always appropriate, so you should take care to use the right treatment for your neck pain.
Applying ice to the neck
Ice can be used to treat pain that is caused by acute neck injuries and many doctors recommend using this treatment along with aspirin for the first 48-72 hours after an injury.
When it is applied to the affected area, ice narrows the space between the blood vessels that supply the area, which lowers the number of chemicals that travel to the area. These chemicals are part of the natural healing process, but they can also cause swelling and scar tissue in the area, so the ice can ease this as well as reducing the pain.
When applying ice, wrap it in a thin tea towel rather than placing it straight onto the skin. Make sure you only use it for 20 minutes once every few hours to prevent the risk of frostbite.
Applying heat to a neck injury
It is recommended that you use heat treatment for chronic or longstanding conditions that cause neck pain and hot wet towels and heat pads are both effective ways of doing this.
To apply heat, you can place a towel under a running hot tap, then apply it to your injury for around 20 minutes. This relaxes the tissues and encourages blood to flow towards the area.
You must not use heat treatment while you are sleeping or following exercise, but it can be effective to heat an affected area before you exercise.
If using heat and ice treatment or non-prescribed medication does not ease your pain after four to five days, then you are advised to seek medical advice. For more information about ice and heat treatment for neck pain, read our Broadgate Journal article.