Hot and Cold Therapy

Whent to use Hot and Cold Therapy for Neck Pain

Deciding whether to use thermotherapy or cryotherapy for neck pain depends on the circumstances of the patient. If an acute injury such as a sprain, or strain, with concomitant inflammation has occurred then cold therapy is usually indicated in order to reduce the swelling and numb the pain. This treatment is most effective if applied within the first three days of the injury, and can help almost immediately in most cases.

For Chronic Neck Pain

If the condition is chronic and causes a stiff neck and muscle discomfort then heat therapy is usually the preferred treatment. Thermotherapy helps to improve circulation to the affected area, delivering oxygen and nutrients to aid healing and muscle relaxation as well as the removal of metabolic byproducts and toxins from the area. This also has the effect of reducing neck muscle spasm and neck pain, giving the patient significant relief.

When applying either heat or cold therapy it is important to be aware of the potential risks and to act sensibly when applying a compress (i.e. ensuring it is not too hot or too cold), particularly if using the treatment for children and the elderly. Combining heat therapy with aromatherapy may give added benefit for muscle relaxation, with rosemary oil improving circulation and mental clarity, and lavender a favored oil for promoting a calming effect. These oils can also be used, sparingly, in the sauna in order to facilitate relaxation if neck pain is part of a systemic pain condition such as arthritis or fibromyalgia.

Last Updated: 12/14/2010