Torticollis: Hot or cold to heal faster?

Le torticollis is very painful and incapacitating. Treatments offered include heat and ice. But how can we know if it is better to put hot or cold?

Essentially, you should know that there is not necessarily a right answer according to scientific studies. Ice is generally recommended in the acute phase in the presence of inflammation, and heat thereafter to reduce muscle tension.

For more information on the subject, check out the following article. We will give you specific recommendations, as well as other solutions to speed up the healing of your torticollis.

What is torticollis?

Le torticollis, from the Latin “collum distorsum” meaning "twisted neck", is a deformity characterized by an involuntary and permanent tilting, congenital or acquired, of the head and neck.

The inclination of the head and neck can be done in various directions: backwards, forwards or laterally, hence the names: posterior, anterior or lateral torticollis, the torticollis lateral being the most common variety.

Le torticollis is a clinical manifestation common to many medical or surgical conditions. Its origin can be skin, bone or muscle:

  • Cutaneous: retraction of the skin and of the subcutaneous cellular tissue, for example following a burn or an abscess, can be complicated by so-called scarring torticollis.
  • Bone: in many cases torticollis is the consequence of a joint or bone (vertebral) injury. The latter is then either directly responsible for torticollis by causing a deformation of the cervical spine, or indirectly by causing painful reflex muscle contractures responsible for vicious attitudes of the head.
  • Muscular: the neck is made up of many muscles which play a vital role in the balance of the head thanks to their tone, and in its mobility by ensuring movements in the different planes of space. This balance can be broken by the occurrence of contractures, spasms, retractions or paralysis.

From a surgical point of view, the torticollis by muscular retraction, usually congenital, is the most common. However, the most common cause of this neck deformity, one that the vast majority of us will experience at some point in our lives, is the torticollis due to muscle spasm.

This results in the sudden appearance of pain more or less intense at the level of the neck and by a limitation of head movements in certain planes of space (depending on the muscle affected). We have the feeling that our neck is literally blocked!

This type of torticollis is usually benign and very quickly resolvable in a way spontaneous. The fact remains that it is highly handicapping.

To know more, see the following article.

Hot or cold, what to choose to get relief from torticollis?

The choice between hot and cold to relieve torticollis 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 torticollis and 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 torticollis with hot and cold?

Relieve neck pain with cold

To relieve the torticollis by the cold, 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 torticollis is the 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 caused by the torticollis. 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 torticollis 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 torticollis.

Many other approaches can also help you treat your torticollis. 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 the torticollis. 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.

When to consult?

In typical cases, the occurrence of torticollis does not necessarily require a medical consultation. It's a love benign which, in the vast majority of cases, heals spontaneously in a few hours to a few days.

However, there are certain circumstances that require a consultation medical :

  • Persistence of neck pain (several days or weeks).
  • Radiating arm pain.
  • Burning sensation or tingling in the arm.
  • Frequent recurrences (the torticollis comes back several times a month or a year).
  • Symptoms indicating an infection (fever, aches, headaches, photophobia, etc.).
  • Baby or child torticollis.
  • Pain associated with signs of shock (pallor, sweating, coldness of the extremities, ringing in the ears, cyanosis, dizziness, anxiety, impaired consciousness, palpitations, etc.).


Back to top