Should I use ice or heat for neck pain? This is a question commonly asked by many patients during consultations, when they need pain relief for treating pain in their neck, shoulders, or back. To be truthful, the answer is both. However, having a better understanding about each treatment is needed before trying anything for your pain relief. Otherwise, there is a greater chance of misunderstanding and further injury.
Even though both heat and ice can be used for chronic neck pain, it does not mean both treatments should be used simultaneously, rather they can both be useful in different situations. Your orthopedic surgeon should diagnose your symptoms and cause, and then administer the right treatment for relief. There can be different reasons you are experiencing your neck pain, and inflammation is often the main culprit. Some pain is caused due to muscle cramps, knots, injury, and degenerative conditions such as arthritis.
Use ice to treat:
- Fresh Injuries
- Tissue Fatigue and Overuse Injuries (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome)
Using ice for injuries caused by inflammation and overuse is the appropriate form of treatment. Using heat on these types of injuries can aggravate the inflammation, making it worse. Some people tend to use heat just because ice applications can be quite uncomfortable, but ice should still be used over heat for injuries and inflammation. Consider some of the gel ice packs, or using a thin wash cloth or towel to reduce ice discomfort.
Use heat with:
- Muscle Spasms
- Trigger Points
- Lower Neck and Back Pain
Muscles contract often which results in severe pain leading to muscle spasms. The facet joints in the spine become inflamed or injured, often resulting in chronic pain. This can also cause problems with mobility. Pain on certain trigger points in the body should also be treated with heat therapy. Lower back and neck pain should be treated only with heat, as using ice in certain scenarios can increase muscle spasms and pain in trigger points, causing severe muscular pain throughout the body.
For ice and heat, it is recommended to follow 20 minutes on and off. Make sure to consult with your orthopedic surgeon before using any treatment, as using the wrong methods can aggravate inflammation, muscle stress, and cause pain, instead of reducing it.
To learn more about which treatment is best for your back and neck pain, call Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland Spine Academy at (410) 644-1880, or request an appointment online