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Hot or cold for neck pain?

10168 iStock 000011489704XSmall   Copy
10168 iStock 000011489704XSmall Copy

Muscle pain is a fact of life. After a long day in the garden, a game of golf, or a journey by car or plane, you may feel a few aches and pains.

Before you reach for the anti-inflammatories and pain killers, try a more gentle approach. Paracetamol, ibuprofen and other products can be very effective, but require professional advice.

Assess

If you have felt a wrenching or tearing sensation, accompanied by pain or loss of function, seek professional advice immediately, before administering any pain relief. If you have injured yourself considerably, it is best not to mask any symptoms. Furthermore, if you have taken one medication, your doctor may be unable to administer a more effective drug until your system is clear.

In the first instance, stop what you are doing that caused the pain. Compress the area with a bandage. Apply ice for 5 minutes then reassess the pain.

Alternating cold and heat (icepack and a hot water bottle or wheat bag) can be beneficial for general aches and pains. Try five minutes of each, twice.

Stretch

Stretching is an effective way to help relieve aching muscles. In many cases, your body will know what it wants to do, eg reach high, gently twist through the lower spine, or rotate through the ankles.

Only ever perform stretches to the point of ‘reasonable discomfort’, never pain. Pain is your body’s way of saying ‘stop’. It is important to listen.

Warm water is incredibly soothing if you have just overdone it and your muscles feel achy and fatigued. Run a deep bath and add bath salts and enjoy a nice soak.

Cold, in the form of ice packs, are fabulous for reducing inflammation and therefore pain.

A mixture of both warm and cold helps to reduce pain and soothe the muscles.

Mature couple stretching at park and listening to music. Athletic senior couple exercising together outdoor. Fit senior runners stretching before running outdoors.

Avoid pain in the first instance

To avoid muscle pain in the first place, know your limits. It may be best to tackle a large physical job over several days, rather than in one. If you have been off the golf course for a while, start with nine holes.

Make sure you warm up before you start any physical activity. Stretch gently, take a walk and prepare yourself. Do the same to cool down afterward. Keep your body well hydrated and if you are prone to cramp, pack a banana or coconut water in your bag – both are high in potassium, which will help.

Keep active

The more your body is capable of doing, the less it will complain. Maintain a strong core (abdominal muscles) and good posture to prevent as many aches and pains as you possibly can.