7 Best Cooling and Heated Neck Wraps to Reduce Tension
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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.
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.
(Experiencing pain while you sleep? Here are the best pillows for neck pain.)
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.
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.”
(Here’s how to make your own ice pack.)
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.
In addition to relieving tension and pain, a cooling neck wrap can also keep you cool, especially during the summertime heat.
“Placing it on your neck when your body is overheating can bring your body’s temperature down,” says Hooman Melamed, MD, a board-certified orthopedic spine doctor in Marina Del Ray, California. “Just beneath the skin’s surface on the back of your neck are several blood vessels that, when cooled, can send a message to your body to start cooling down.”
Applying heat to your neck and shoulder area can also help reduce stress, according to Dr. Melamed.
“Heat has a relaxing effect on nerves, which can help ease tension in your body,” he says.
Are cooling and heated neck wraps safe?
Using heating and cooling wraps is relatively safe and comes with minimal side effects, according to Zentai. There is, however, a risk of damaging your skin with prolonged use.
For this reason, she recommends checking your skin regularly when wearing an ice or heat pack to avoid burning or freezing the skin.
Make sure you follow instructions for whichever device you use. And don’t use it in areas with decreased sensitivity. Doing so could lead to skin injury.
What to look for in a cooling or heated neck wrap
Here are some of the key features experts recommend:
Not only do you want a neck wrap that will last, but you also want to make sure it won’t rupture or leak.
“Some of the liquid can be harmful if ingested,” warns Dr. Melamed. “It’s also important to make sure that your cool pack will stay cold for at least one hour.”
Rice or seed fillings
According to Dr. Shah, the most effective heating packs are those filled with rice or flaxseed. When these ingredients are warmed, usually in a microwave, they create steam, leading to moist heat.
“Moist heat is best for penetrating into muscles, which are usually in spasm for patients with chronic pain, especially after having a procedure in which a needle penetrating … into the epidural space can cause a significant amount of muscle trauma,” she says.
Zentai recommends looking for a wrap that works for your lifestyle.
“An electric heated neck wrap works well if you are in one location for a prolonged period of time [like sitting at a desk] because you can plug it in and continue working without being limited,” she says. “If you are mobile and doing multiple things at once, a beaded heated wrap that you microwave may be more beneficial.”
If you plan to both heat and cool your neck, look for a product that’s capable of both. It may be more convenient than buying two different products.
The best cooling and heated neck wraps
While there is certainly no shortage of cooling and heated neck wraps on the market, these are the ones the experts recommend.
NatraCure FlexiKold Gel Neck Ice Pack
Walding likes this cooling neck wrap because of how well it contours around the neck. And it’s clear to see from the more than 25,000 reviews and the 4.7-star rating that the FlexiKold pack lives up to the hype.
You store this cooling wrap in the freezer and then place it against the area of your neck or back that is causing you pain. It features heavy-duty nylon material and a double seal, so you don’t have to worry about leaks.
(Here’s how to trick yourself into feeling warm on cold days.)
Sharper Image Aromatherapy Neck + Shoulder Wrap
You can use it hot or cold. To heat, simply place it in the microwave for a couple of seconds before use. To cool, leave it in the freezer for one to two hours.
Dr. Melamed likes that it wraps around a large portion of your neck and extends all the way down to your upper back.
MaxKare Large Heating Pad
If you’re looking for a heating wrap that eases tension in more than just your neck area, this MaxKare electric neck wrap is a great purchase. You wear it almost like a shawl, and it contours all the way around your neck, shoulders, and back.
It has five levels of heat to choose from and a timer that automatically turns the heating pad off, helping you avoid burns. It’s super soft and cozy for use whether you’re relaxing or working.
(These signs indicate you might have pulled a muscle in your neck.)
Sunny Bay Microwave Heating Pad
You can use this heating wrap from Sunny Bay for both hot and cold therapy, and its conveniently petite size makes for easy on-the-go use.
It’s filled with whole grains, has a machine-washable fleece cover, and maintains heat for up to 30 minutes. Plus, it’s nonflammable.
Geniani Magma Microwavable Heating Wrap
This lavender-filled neck wrap from Geniani heats in your microwave in just over a minute and then sits gently on your shoulders to ease tension for 20 minutes or longer. Use it as a cooling neck wrap by leaving it in the freezer for two hours.
“It is moldable for various body types, provides lightweight [pressure] to decrease spasms and for added comfort, [and has] heating and cooling capacity for whatever needs they may have,” says Zenati.
Revix Microwavable Heating Pads
This two-piece weighted heating pad set has a clay bead and millet filling to provide just the right amount of pressure to the sensitive areas in your neck, shoulders, and upper back.
You can use this Revix neck wrap for both heat and cold therapy, either storing it in the freezer or heating it up in the microwave.
Icy Hot Medicated Patches
While not technically a neck wrap, Icy Hot‘s medicated pad is a favorite of Dr. Melamed’s because it offers immediate relief for pain caused by simple aches, muscle strains, and even arthritis.
To use, you simply remove the backing and place it where you are experiencing neck pain. You can leave it on for up to eight hours and apply up to three times daily.
Next, check out these neck heating pads that will relax you.
- Pain Physician: "Comprehensive Review of Epidemiology, Scope, and Impact of Spinal Pain"
- Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy: "Neck Pain: Clinical Practice Guidelines Linked to the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health From the Orthopaedic Section of the American Physical Therapy Association"
- Janice Johnston, MD, the chief medical officer and cofounder of Redirect Health
- Puja Shah, MD, double board-certified anesthesiologist and interventional pain management specialist in Newport Beach, California
- Sydnee Zentai, PT, DPT, a physical therapist with SporTherapy in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas
- Hooman Melamed, MD, board-certified orthopedic spine doctor in Marina Del Ray, California