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Neck Pain: Should I Use Ice or Heat for Relief?

neckpainm04Almost everyone will experience a bout of neck pain at some point in life.  Whether it be from a fender bender, sports injury, or simply wear and tear, neck pain can be stubborn and difficult to relieve.  We’ve all heard that both ice and heat can help, but which one should you try?

  • Ice: Ice is typically recommended in the acute stage of an injury.  This usually means that ice is your best bet for the first 24 to 48 hours following an injury to reduce the pain from the body’s natural inflammatory process.  New injuries tend to be hot, swollen and inflamed, and icing can help to calm those tissues down a bit.
  • Heat: Heat is good for taking the edge off of chronic muscle aches and stiffness.  For example, if your neck is aching after a particularly stressful day at work, then applying heat can help bring some ease and relief.

Either way you look at it, ice and heat can be good ways to provide some temporary relief.  However, if there is an underlying problem with spinal alignment, then no amount of ice or heat will provide a lasting solution.

Neck Pain and Your Upper Cervical Spine

Most neck and back problems are related to the spine.  The neck is made up of seven vertebrae surrounded by muscles, tendons and ligaments that help to both move and stabilize the neck.  Any of those tissues can become injured and be a source of pain and discomfort.  As far as the spine is concerned, the most freely movable vertebra in the neck is the atlas.  The atlas sits at the very top of the neck and bears the weight of the head.  It is also responsible for protecting the brainstem, a component of our central nervous system that plays a role in our body’s overall ability to function.

When the atlas misaligns, it causes the rest of the vertebrae in the neck to compensate in order to support the head properly.  This can lead to wear and tear on muscles and ligaments, as well as pressure on the brainstem and nerves.  In order for healing to take place, the atlas must be returned to its normal position.  Our focus at Tranquility Spinal Care is on the gentle and precise realignment of the upper cervical spine using the NUCCA technique.  When the head is able to be carried in a neutral posture and the brainstem is free from pressure, then the body is able to heal and function at its highest capacity.

 

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