Cervical pain: hot or cold (Which to choose?)

neck pain

A neck pain is a very common symptom. It may be due to various disorders such as stress or torticollis. To relieve it, opting for heat or an ice pack is just as effective. Hot or cold, what should you choose to soothe a sore neck?

Cervical Spine Definition and Anatomy


neck pain ou neck pain is a pain felt in the neck. It often results in stiffness which causes discomfort in the movements of the neck.

To better understand this type of pain, I will explain some notions of anatomy.

La cervical spine is formed by the first 7 bones of the spine. It extends from the base of the skull to the upper part of the thoracic spine. These are the first two vertebrae which ensure the stability and mobility of the head. They therefore have a unique configuration.

The first vertebrate is called atlas. This is where the skull rests. She serves as his pivot. It allows movement back and forth. L'axis, the second vertebra located below the atlas, allows the rotation of the neck as well as the movement of the head from side to side.

The vertebrae are surrounded by muscles, ligaments, blood vessels and nerves. Like all along the spine, between the vertebrae are intervertebral discs which act as a shock absorber.

The set of cervical vertebrae form a structural support that provides flexibility in the neck.

Cervical pain 

La neck pain can therefore have different origins. It may be a muscle spasm (torticollis), inflammation of tendons, stretching of ligaments, cervical spondylosis or an herniated disc.

Aside from pain, other symptoms can occur with neck pain, such as:

Hot or cold, what to choose to relieve neck pain?

The choice between hot and cold to relieve neck pain is done according to the origin of the pain. If the pain is related to inflammation, cold therapy is recommended instead. On the other hand, if the neck pain is caused by a particular tension, the application of heat is best suited.

Le cold treatment is known as cryotherapy. Cold has an anti-inflammatory action that relieves pain. Thanks to his vasoconstrictor effect, the cold reduces the diameter of the blood vessels as well as the blood flow. The cold is also famous for its analgesic effect against pain such as neck pain.


Cold is therefore indicated to alleviate inflammatory conditions, swelling, sprains, arthritis and tendonitis.


The heat, meanwhile, is a well-known natural remedy for neck pain. In case of pain, our body reacts immediately to the heat. It has a triple beneficial effect, which is:

  • dilation of blood vessels;
  • restoration of damaged tissue;
  • reduction in the perception of pain.

Unlike cold, heat has a vasodilating effect. In other words, it increases blood circulation. This helps in the elimination of toxins in the muscles and will allow relieve muscle stiffness. The heat therefore allows relieve tension and muscle contractures in the neck and shoulders. It has a relaxing effect.

To learn more about the difference between heat and ice in the treatment of spinal pain, see the following article.

What to do to relieve neck pain with hot and cold?

Relieve neck pain with cold

To relieve the cold neck pain, prepare an ice pack. Put the ice pack on your neck. It should be wrapped either in a warm cloth or in a dry towel. The latter will avoid direct contact of the ice on the skin and its possible harmful effects (burns). As for the warm fabric, it will promote gradual adaptation to the cold in order to optimize its effects.

The compress should not be left on the painful area for more than 20 to 30 minutes per application. If your neck pain is due to whiplash (during a car accident), it is recommended to apply a 10-minute ice pack every waking hour for 24 to 48 hours after the accident. In the meantime, the ice pack must be placed back in the freezer so that it freezes again.

Treat neck pain with heat

To heat treatment, there are a variety of techniques and remedies depending on your needs. One of the traditional remedies for neck pain is good old hot water bottle. It is especially practical when you stay at home. Its main advantage is that it is reusable.

Currently, there are heating pads and patches to calm neck pain. They are more convenient than the hot water bottle, as they can be fixed on the painful area for a long time. In this case, you can wear them discreetly under your clothes wherever you go without hindering your movements. Whether you are at home, in the office or doing the gym, you can wear them comfortably. The heat penetrates deep into the fabrics while you wear them, which will ensure a long-lasting effect.

The sauna is also a very effective heat therapy to relieve neck tension. We are talking here about the classic variant such as the Finnish sauna, the temperature of which can reach 110 ° C. Alternatively, you also have the infrared sauna. The latter directly heats the body to 70°C. Infrared radiation penetrates the body and provides pleasant warmth. the infrared sauna has a positive effect on the various tensions.

You also have other techniques to treat neck pain with heat, namely:

  • the complete hot bath;
  • the infrared light lamp;
  • the hot roller;
  • warming ointments...

In short, heat is a gentle and natural way to relieve muscle tension and neck pain.

Many other approaches can also help you treat your neck pain. We can cite :

  • osteopathy;
  • green clay ;
  • the salt bath;
  • essential oils ;
  • self-massage;
  • relaxation exercises...

What must be remembered is that cold and heat are all effective in their own way to treat neck pain. While cold is mainly used for inflammatory pain, hot is recommended for tension-related pain. If the neck pain persists despite natural treatments, you should consult your doctor as soon as possible.




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