I'm using heat on my neck right now while I write this, because my acupuncturist recommends it when you have cold/flu symptoms and I've found that it does help me feel more human, whether it helps me get better or not. Feeling better when you're still sick is great, so I don't care either way.
But I'm a massage therapist, so I'm not going to tell you about excess wind and cold/flu stuff, because that's not my training even a little bit, but what I can tell you is that heat on your neck is really great for preventing neck and shoulder tension from getting worse. It won't dig through old tension and move it along the way massage can, but it's really great at preventing the new fresh tension from setting up home. This is my #1 self-care recommendation for clients who are getting ongoing massage for specific muscle tension, because it means that I'm not working through the same surface-level tension each time, we can progress to the deeper stuff in fewer sessions. But there's no reason to not try it before you come in, or preventatively, to keep your neck/shoulder tension down to a duller roar.
Heat feels cozy and can help interrupt some kinds of stressful moments. It also provides a pleasant sensation and so can give your nervous system some relief if you have chronic pain.
The best tool to use is the one that fits easily into your life, and for me that's the microwave it's-full-of-rice kind. I bought the one I use at the office at good old Cambridge Naturals and I sewed the one I use at home, but you can also make your own by taking an old clean sock, filling it with dry rice and tying the open end shut. Add the contents of a couple of your favorite herbal tea bags and you can call it aromatherapy. You put it in the microwave to heat it up, mine takes about 2.5-3 minutes.
You shouldn't use heat if:
- you have numbness
- or an existing burn (including sunburn!)
- have serious circulatory problems
- or an active infection
- If you try using it and it feels bad for any reason, just skip it, your body is smarter than advice from a stranger on the internet.