Which is Better for Neck Pain Heat or Ice?

Neck Pain Treatment

Neck pain is something we all get to experience at least once in our lives. A study reveals that seven out of ten people suffer from neck pain once in a lifetime. The core reasons for neck pain are physical and mental stress that puts a strain on neck muscles. It is a common problem and treated with a pain killer or home remedies. But for chronic pain, you should see a doctor for a full-fledge Neck pain treatment. While many can rectify pain with home remedies, some are still confused between heat and ice treatment for pain. Let’s probe whether ice or heat is the most favorable to relieve pain.

Heat or Ice: Which Is Best for Chronic Pain? - University Health News

Before thoroughly discussing the impact of heat and ice, let us understand that none of them is harmful. You can use both for neck pain.


ice is the first thing that you should apply to the neck. It is because ice serves as an agent to numb acute pain. In a stiff neck, the soft tissues are inflamed, and ice can instantly reduce the inflammation.

Ice Therapy: 

Ice Therapy: When and How to Use It Correctly - eMediHealth

Applying ice on any painful area is called ice therapy or cryotherapy. This therapy works by obstructing the blood flow to the affected area, therefore decreasing inflammation and swelling. It also reduces the nerve activity around the specified area causing pain relief. Many chiropractors recommend applying ice on a stiff and inflexible pain within 24 -48 hours. Therefore, it is very significant to apply ice on the neck as soon as possible. If cold therapy doesn’t show any results, you must see a doctor.

You must wrap ice in a towel and apply it to the neck. Never apply it directly, as it can damage the skin and tissues. Some other substitutes of ice are coolant sprays and frozen gel packs. People with sensory disorders must refrain from using ice therapy. Diabetic patients, for example, must avoid it as it may cause nerve damage.


The role of heat in the treatment of pain is to relax muscles and retract blood flow to the affected area. Therefore, it is significant to apply heat when the pain slightly vanishes and the inflammation reduces. It will add more pain if you apply heat instantly after realizing pain. The blood flow to a stiff neck, that has its soft tissues inflamed, will cause more inflammation. Apply ice before applying heat to the neck to diminish the inflammation and recover from the pain. Once the acute pain calms, apply heat using a heating pad to relax the affected muscles.

Heat Therapy: 

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The process of treating an affected area with heat is called heat therapy. Remember, heat means a warm temperature and not hot. So you have to be careful of treating the pain with a warm temperature. There are two types of heat therapy: Dry heat and Moist heat. Dry heat includes the treatment of the affected area with heat that dehydrates the affected area. Whereas moist heat is the heat received from a moist source, like a hot bath and steamed towels that penetrates directly into muscles.

General Tip: 

Whether you use ice or heat for neck pain, make sure you use them in a moderate amount. Apply them for 15-20 minutes at a time and avoid applying longer than that. Avoid applying heat/cold consecutively without a break. Give the affected area at least half an hour to show the results before the second dose. Also, make sure that you do not apply heat or ice directly on the skin. Use a towel for ice and a heating pad for the application of heat.