Is Sauna Good for a Stiff Neck? (How To Use it for Maximum Relief!)

Stiff neck is a very common problem in the world today. Most people who suffer from a stiff neck do not seek treatment but rather prefer to suffer silently. This article discusses what a stiff neck is, whether or not a sauna helps, and how to get maximum relief. 

Heat from the sauna or steam room can help treat a stiff neck at the source by helping to relieve tightness and increase blood flow in the area as well as help to release tension throughout the body. After a 10-20 minute sauna session, use a cold compress on your neck for 10-15 minutes for maximum effectiveness.

Now that we know the sauna is good for a stiff neck, read on to find out more about a stiff neck, its causes, and ways of relief.

What causes a stiff neck?

The neck contains bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. They work together to support the head and allow movement. The neck can become stiff when injured or overused. 

A stiff neck usually arises from a minor incident or injury. The most common cause of a stiff neck is a soft tissue sprain or a muscle strain. It can also be caused by injury of one or more of the vertebrae or even an awkward sleeping position.

A stiff neck is characterized by difficulty in movement of the neck and soreness when trying to move the head to the side. It may be accompanied by arm pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, or/and a headache.

Many people are familiar with a stiff neck, whether caused by strenuous activity during the day, such as farming or simply by waking up. The way a person cares and manages a stiff neck will impact the recovery time, pain levels, and likelihood of its return. 

A stiff neck often arises from muscle strain or minor injury caused by:

  • Stress resulting in muscle tension
  • Experiencing a fall
  • A sports injury
  • Looking down at something for too long (like a mobile phone)
  • Sitting for too long
  • Sleeping in an awkward position

Can a sauna help with a stiff neck?

A stiff neck is often caused by strains and stress, causing tension in the soft tissues and muscles. A stiff neck can restrict proper blood circulation and send pain signals to the brain. 

The sauna can help relieve a stiff neck, spasms, and related pain or discomfort in the neck. The sauna will help to loosen up and unwind painful muscle knots in the neck. It is highly recommended for anyone with a stiff neck to try out the sauna.

In a sauna, the dry heat causes the body temperature to reach about 104 degrees within a few minutes, according to Harvard Health. The heat results in a faster pulse and faster circulation of blood and other body fluid. It benefits people with stiff necks by improving elasticity in the muscle tendons. 

Should you put heat on a stiff neck?

For a stiff neck, heat is one of the cheapest and convenient ways to get relief. Heat application helps to increase blood flow and dilate blood vessels which will improve blood circulation in the affected area. The application of heat can also increase flexibility and reduce the tightness of muscles. 

Some examples of heat therapy are:

  • Sauna
  • Heating pad
  • Warm bath or shower
  • Heat pack, e.g. heat wrap or gel pack

The time range of heat application procedures depends on the amount of pain relief experienced. Some sessions can last 15-25 minutes, and some can go as long as 1 or 2 hours. It also depends on the intensity of heat used. 

What is better for a stiff neck – heat or cold?

A stiff neck can be excruciating, and most times, you may feel like going to any extent to get rid of it. 

Some patients may prefer heat, whereas some may prefer ice. It is, however, advisable to apply both with the ice coming first, then the heat 24-48 hours later to get rid of neck pain faster and more effectively. The ice helps to prevent inflammation and control pain naturally. The heat will help to reduce stiffness in the neck and loosen tense muscles. 

Ice does its part in terms of reducing inflammation while heat improves blood flow, creating a better healing environment. Heat also helps in the improvement of range of motion. It is, however, advised not to apply heat on the neck until 24 or 48 hours after the initial injury or pain.

It is vital to regulate the use of both ice and heat. Here are some essential tips:

  • The skin should be protected from the heat/ice source by placing a towel on your skin before applying the ice or heat
  • The heat or ice should not be applied for too long at a time, 15-20 minutes should be the time range
  • Always give the neck a break of at least 40 minutes before applying more after a session

Is the sauna good for muscle knots?

Knots are a type of spasm caused by the tension of a small portion of a muscle. Knots are usually found in the back, shoulders and neck. They often occur due to irritation of muscles caused by a repetitive motion of a group of muscles.  

The sauna is a very effective way of addressing muscle knots and pain. It is one of the easiest ways of relieving muscle knots. The heating of the muscles will lead to dilation of the blood vessels, leading to the flow of oxygen and more nutrients. This increase in flow will help in reducing muscle pain and heal any damage. 

The sauna has always been known for alleviating muscle knots and stress by relaxing them and stretching. It allows mobility and greater flexibility of body parts. 

Is the sauna good for sore muscles?

The sauna can help get rid of sore muscles caused by pains and aches after a workout session

Staying in a sauna increases blood circulation and eliminates metabolic waste buildup in the body that occurs during exercise. The increased blood circulation also helps accelerate the repair of worn-out muscles and recovery of oxygen-depleted muscle tissues. 

The relaxation of muscles occurs best when the tissues are warm. This leads to flexibility and greater mobility of the muscle. The heat from the sauna relieves the tension in sore muscles and helps dilate the peripheral blood vessels of the body. The sauna also helps to reduce soreness between nerves and combat muscle spasms. 

How to use the sauna to help relieve a stiff neck

The sauna helps to strengthen the immune system, cardio conditioning, improve circulation and more. It is an excellent method of getting rid of stress and detoxification due to the release of toxins due to the high temperature in the sauna. The sauna can also help relieve muscle tension and relax muscles and nerves in the body. 

The high temperature in a sauna causes sweat and to get the best out of it for a stiff neck. For example, in an infrared sauna, it should be heated to between 110 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit. A session should last between 20-30 minutes, depending on the temperature you are working with.

You can also take a break in between sessions and drink plenty of water. Increasing your number of sessions to two or three in a day can help relieve pain and symptoms of stiff neck faster.

Massaging also helps to reduce muscle tensions and relax muscles and tissues.