A stiff neck is no fun. You have limited upper body movement, and pain may radiate to your shoulders and down your back from tensing your upper back and neck muscles. If the stiff neck or neck pain is a result of a head or neck injury, visit your doctor before using alternative methods to alleviate the stiffness. However, if your neck is stiff because you slept wrong or worked out too hard at the gym, a warm castor oil treatment that may offer some relief.
Oil pressed from the shiny beans of the castor plant, or Ricinus communis, has a history of health use dating as far back as ancient Egypt, according to the "Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine." Although the whole castor beans contain ricin, a deadly poison, the extracted oil does not. Used for centuries as a remedy for constipation or to rid the bowels of tainted food, castor oil is readily available today at health food stores and some grocery stores.
History of Castor Oil Treatments
External treatments with castor oil for muscle and organ ailments are relatively new, according to William A. McGarey, M.D., author of "The Oil That Heals: A Physician's Successes With Castor Oil Treatments." Dr. McGarey studied the history of castor oil treatments as recommended by psychic Edgar Cayce, who suggested medical treatments while in a trance.
Convinced that he was onto something, McGarey compiled the anecdotal results from hundreds of patients who followed Cayce's suggestions for using topical castor oil, and used the research to compile the information in his book.
The correct way to use castor oil to alleviate stiff or sore muscles, according to McGarey, is to make a castor oil pack. This involves using a piece of wool flannel fabric, approximate 16 inches square, folded into quarters. McGarey instructs his readers to heat the castor oil until it's very warm, but not hot, and saturate the folded flannel with the oil, gently wringing out excess oil. The patient then places the warm and oily flannel over the stiff muscle and covers the flannel with a piece of plastic wrap to keep the oil from soiling clothing or furniture. The patient then covers the plastic wrap with a towel, followed by a heating pad to keep the oil as hot as possible, without being uncomfortable.
After an hour, the patient removes the pack, saves it for future uses, and washes the thick oil from his skin with a combination of baking soda and warm water. The patient may repeat the treatment daily for one hour, if desired.
Although the warmth of the castor oil pack may be soothing and comforting on a stiff neck, medical studies confirming the benefits of castor oil for this purpose are lacking. In his book, Dr. McGarey cites Cayce as saying "all healing of every nature is the changing of the vibrations from within." McGarey attributes the success of castor oil packs to their ability to raise the vibration within injured or diseased muscles and organs, bringing them back in alignment with a healthier vibration.