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  Bret Bailey, Licensed Massage Therapist  
Bret Bailey, Licensed Massage Therapist

Self Care Between Massages

Hot Towel Wrap to Ease Neck Strain

Tip #3 - January, 2010
by Bret Bailey, LMT

Here's a simple, yet effective self-treatment, you can use between massages, to help soothe pinched or knotted neck muscles.

But first, as a general rule, while heat is great in many instances, please refrain from using it over cuts, bruises, discoloration or swelling. Also, if you have diabetes, you may want to ask your doctor first. Finally, if you've injured your neck within the past 3 or 4 days, you'll be in what's called the acute stage of healing, and should wait until the 5th day to apply heat.

However, if you simply slept wrong last night and woke up with a knot or tightness in you neck, this may be just what you need.
To start, get a large hand towel- one about 2 feet long will work well.  (Try to use an older, less valuable towel, if possible.)

Lay it out on a counter, and roll it tightly, lengthwise, to make a 2-foot towel roll. (The tighter the roll the longer it will stay warm.)

Completely soak your towel roll with water by holding it under a cold faucet.
When the towel is completely saturated, wring it out by hand, and remove any excess water. Basically, you want the towel to be wet, but not dripping.

Once you've done this, place the towel roll in the center of a microwave oven, and heat on high for 1 minute.

When it's done heating, carefully remove it from the microwave. 

If it's too cool, heat it for another 30 seconds. Also, if your microwave oven doesn't have a carousel inside, be sure to rotate the towel before adding more time.

Now, on the other hand, if after a minute or two you feel it's too hot, leave it in the microwave for a few minutes, or carefully remove it and place it on a counter.  There you can gently and partially unroll it to let it cool briefly before rerolling it.

Finally when you're done with the Three Bears tests, and it feels just right for the very tender skin of your neck, gently drape it across the back of your neck.

How does the heat feel on the neck? Do a final check, and if it still feels comfortable, adjust the hot towel and position if over the areas of strain or tension in your neck.

Now, find a place to sit quietly, close your eyes, and bring your attention to your breath, gently directing it to your neck. Feel your breath, as it lifts and fills your neck, helping to open and lengthen your neck muscles while the warm heat of the towels works its way into the layers of tension.

After about 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how hot the towel was to begin with, and how tightly the towel was rolled, it will have cooled. At this point, evaluate the treatment, and determine if you'd like to do additional hot towel wraps. If this helped, you can repeat the treatment 2 or 3 more times.

Additionally, if you want to enhance your therapeutic treatment, try adding a drop or two of a calming essential oil, like lavender, bergamot or ylang ylang, to the towel, just before wrapping it around your neck. Not only will you get the soothing benefits of the penetrating, moist heat, but you'll also get the added stress-relieving benefit of a brief aromatherapy treatment.

I hope this tip will bring you some relief, between massages, and until your next visit.

Be Well,

Bret Bailey, LMT


Please feel free to contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions- just click here.


Self Care Between Massages - Tips Archive

Tip #1, 11/09- Easing Back Tension With A Tennis Ball

Tip #2, 12/09 - Easing Holiday Tensions With An Epsom Salt Bath

Tip #3, 1/10 - Hot Towel Wrap to Ease Neck Strain

Tip #4, 2/10 - Stretches for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Tip #5, 3/10 - Relieving and Preventing Springtime Neck Strain

Tip #6, 4/10 - Hello Core Strength, Goodbye Lower Back Pain

Current Self Care Tip


"Bret has a magic, gentle, yet firm touch that is at the same time very relaxing and highly therapeutic. I have trouble with tension in my shoulders and lower back, and I always feel that my aches are gone after a session with him."

- Nancy, Designer/Artist

Bret Bailey, Licensed Massage Therapist Bret Bailey, Licensed Massage Therapist Bret Bailey, Licensed Massage Therapist
Bret Bailey, Licensed Massage Therapist
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