If you are suffering from a pinched nerve in your neck, treatment in the form of temperature therapy may help bring you relief when used in conjunction with other conservative treatments. The benefits of applying hot and cold compresses to injured areas of the body have been known for hundreds of years, and today, physical therapists employ temperature therapy as a major facet of rehabilitation for injuries, postoperative pain, and degenerative conditions like pinched nerves in the spine.
The term cryotherapy, which is the application of cold temperatures to treat injuries, comes from the Greek “cryo,” which means cold, and “therapy,” which means cure. The application of ice packs, which is the most common form of cryotherapy for neck pain, can help to reduce inflammation, numb deep pain, and calm spastic muscle fibers. Ice or reusable therapy packs that can be frozen are the easiest methods of cryotherapy.
Heat therapy, also called thermotherapy, involves the application of heat to an injured area of the body. Heat increases circulation, which promotes healing, relaxes muscles, and may help aid in the repair of collagen tissues. And, because the heat will stimulate sensory signals on the surface of the skin, underling pain signals being sent from the pinched nerve may be slowed or blocked. Options for thermotherapy include:
- Disposable heat patches
- Reusable gel packs that can be microwaved
- Hot baths or showers
- Hot whirlpool therapy
- A warm, moist towel
Your doctor may suggest alternating cold and heat on your neck several times throughout the day, since the two therapies have different healing effects. When you have a pinched nerve in your neck, treatment in the form of temperature therapy may be prescribed as part of a broader conservative treatment regimen. Other common nonsurgical treatments for neck pain include physical therapy, behavior modification, corticosteroid injections, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
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