Hot & cold

If you’ve been a client of mine for any length of time you’ve probably heard me share one of my favorite tricks for loosening up tight muscles. The use of heat and ice can do wonders for overworked muscles. Hot packs and ice packs are relatively cheap. The only other things you need are some time and common sense. Here’s how it works for the neck/shoulder muscles.

Find something you can heat like this crescent-shaped neck wrap. The kind I like best is sold here. You don’t have to be fancy, though. Filling a tube sock with rice can work great also. Place it around your neck and leave it there for about 12-15 minutes or until you feel it cool down. If you purchase a product, it will come with heating directions. If you’re using rice in a sock, heat in the microwave in 30 seconds increments until it’s hot. Be careful you don’t get your heat pack so hot it burns you (this is the common sense ingredient).

The heat dilates the blood vessels in the area, bringing fresh, oxygenated blood to the tired, overworked muscles. The fresh blood brings nutrients to the area and whisks away waste products. Next, you’ll switch to cold, which constricts the blood vessels. In the end you’ll want to alternate between hot and cold 3-5 times for maximum benefit. The dilating and constricting of the blood vessels manually pumps blood through the area, reviving it and restoring health to the tissue.

Ice packs come in all shapes and sizes. Here I’m modeling a long, flexible ice pack. Since it doesn’t wrap around the neck, I’m holding it, which is not ideal. I like to use smaller flexible ice packs and sit back in a comfortable chair or lie down so that the ice pack stays in place. Be careful to place something between your skin and the ice or ice pack so that you don’t get a burn. Again, fanciness is not required. Packs of frozen peas work really well too. Have the ice in place for 8-12 minutes.

In this post I’m showing neck/shoulder care, but the same strategy can work for any muscle group. You can also add some massage after the heat segments to loosen up the muscles more. You can do this yourself or have someone massage the targeted muscles. An additional benefit of the heat is that is softens the connective tissue surrounding the muscles and makes the area more pliable.

Write to me if you have any questions. Remember the common sense piece. And, lastly, I’m not a doctor; this is not medical advice; you may employ this self-care strategy at your own risk. Thanks for reading!

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