SporTherapy in The Healthy
7 Best Cooling and Heated Neck Wraps to Reduce Tension
Dealing with pesky neck pain? These cooling and heated neck wraps may help ease your discomfort.
Neck wraps to relieve pain
Few things are more frustrating to deal with daily neck pain—especially when you report to a nine-to-five job that has you sitting in front of a computer for hours on end. Not the best way to beat a neck ache.
If you’re dealing with neck pain, your misery has company. Most people will deal with neck pain at some point in their lifetime, according to the journal Pain Physician.
Neck stretches and exercises can help ease pain, as can over-the-counter medications. But it may be worth trying other remedies for neck pain too. That’s where cooling and heated neck wraps come in.
Here’s what to know about how they work and the best ones to try to ease neck tension and pain.
What causes neck pain?
Neck pain can result from a myriad of influences, including previous injuries, poor posture, and overexertion, according to Janice Johnston, MD, a family physician in Phoenix.
“Those who have suffered from whiplash or an injury from a contact sport or exercise may experience tension and stress in the neck muscles,” she says. “Additionally, many working professionals, especially those who work from home, experience neck pain as they spend a good majority of their day hunched over a desk working on a computer.”
With so many risk factors and causes of neck pain, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if you find yourself dealing with it at some point or another.
While there is certainly no shortage of treatment options available, one of the easiest and most accessible is heat and cold therapy. You can use a heated neck wrap or cooling neck wrap from the comfort of your home.
What are cooling and heated neck wraps?
Both cooling neck wraps and heated neck wraps are therapeutic devices that either cool or warm the neck area in an attempt to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
Although it varies depending on the product, cooling and heated neck wraps often include natural grains, herbs, and flowers inside a fabric covering.
“Examples include flaxseeds, wheat, lavender, chamomile, peppermint, spearmint, lemongrass, rosemary, cinnamon, yarrow, white willow, valerian root, yellow dock, hops,” Walding says.
Others are electric devices covered in fabric.
How do heated neck wraps work?
By utilizing varying degrees of temperature, heated neck wraps boost circulation and blood flow to the area where you’re experiencing pain.
“The warmth from the heating pad helps promote better blood circulation to the targeted area and reduces any buildup of lactic acid, which can be one of the factors contributing to the discomfort,” says Dr. Johnston, who is also the chief medical officer and co-founder of Redirect Health, which helps people find affordable health care.
When you heat your neck, oxygen and other nutrients flow more freely to the area of concern, targeting and alleviating your pain, she explains.
How do cooling neck wraps work?
Cooling neck wraps have the opposite effect. They lessen blood flow to the neck, which can reduce the inflammation and swelling that causes pain, especially around a joint or a tendon.
The benefits of using cooling or heated neck wraps
There are many ways you stand to benefit from using neck wraps:
The cooling feature of a neck wrap can be especially helpful after surgery.
In fact, Puja Shah, MD, a double board-certified anesthesiologist and interventional pain management specialist in Newport Beach, California, utilizes cold packs for her postoperative patients.
“These are usually made of water crystals that are polymers that hold in that cool water effect,” she says. “Utilizing [this] postoperatively for about a week or so alleviates post-procedural inflammation.”
Both cooling and heated neck wraps can help relieve pain after a long day or a sharp increase in activity, according to physical therapist Sydnee Zentai of SporTherapy in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.
But while they can help mitigate symptoms, they do not fix underlying issues, she notes.
“This is why talking to a health care provider or physical therapist is important, so you can find out the root of your pain and work to address it,” Zentai says.