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Do I Use Heat Or Ice For Back Pain

Much Much More Hot And Cold Information

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Use Heat To Encourage Healing

After your initial swelling and inflammation has subsided, heat therapy can be utilized to encourage healing in your lower back. The application of heat therapy stimulates blood flow to the area, which brings restorative oxygen and nutrients. Additionally, heat can inhibit the transmission of pain signals to your brain and decrease your stiffness.

See How to Apply Heat Therapy

There are two basic categories for heat therapy: dry and moist. Dry heat may leave your skin feeling dehydrated, but many people feel it is easier to apply. Heat therapy may be more difficult to apply, but it can aid in the penetration of heat into your muscles.

If you have diabetes, an open wound, or dermatitis it is best to avoid heat therapy altogether.

Ice Vs Heat: The Difference

Other than the obvious difference between ice and heat, there are other key differences in how each help soothe pain and injury. Furthermore, there are differences in how the body reacts to each one. This is why its so important to use them properly so as to get the reaction necessary for pain relief and inflammation reduction.

Inflammation, pressure, and swelling are some of the reasons why pain can be so hard to manage when it comes to an injury. Ice helps reduce inflammation and numb pain, whereas heat helps relax muscles and stiff joints. While heat helps improve circulation and blood flow, ice reduces blood flow thereby reducing inflammation and swelling.

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Ways To Reduce Your Chronic Sciatica Pain

You may think no one can relate to your lower back pain, but its actually one of the most common physical complaints in the world. Studies show that about 80% of the population experiences back pain at some point in their lives, and they miss more work days because of it than because of any other type of disability.

And back pain is expensive. Americans spend a reported $50 billion on back-related health care every year and match that amount in lost wages.

Dr. Jay Shah at the Samwell Institute for Pain Management is committed to breaking the cycle of chronic lower back pain so you can get back to work and back to life. A leader in the field of interventional pain management, Dr. Shah treats your sciatica with the most advanced technology in his state-of-the-art facility.

Contrast Therapy: Using Both Cold And Heat Therapy For Back Pain

Back Pain: Should I Use Ice or Heat?

Hot/cold immersion therapy alternates quickly between cold and heat therapy to jolt your bodys circulation. As you might imagine, rapidly shifting between hot and cold water can be very stimulating, but outside of that, the benefits of this method of dealing with an injured latissimus dorsi or any other injury is fairly unknown.

Some studies have shown contrast therapy can improve your bodys immune system, but others show minimal net benefit or near equal benefits as with doing cold and heat therapy separately.

Contrast therapy can be used for recovery purposes after a trying workout or to reduce swelling related to injuries. But it should not be used for fresh injuries when swelling, heat and redness are still present.

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Is Heat Or Cold Therapy Better For Sciatica Pain

Dr. Bhavik Sheth, PT, DPT, CSCS, SFMA

Dr. Bhavik Sheth, PT, DPT, CSCS, SFMA is a physical therapist and the co-founder of the Elite Movement Initiative, a physical therapy group. He earned his Dâ¦

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Sciatica is a unique type of nerve pain that begins in the lower back and extends through the lower extremities.

People with sciatica often experience sharp low back, hip, and leg pain as well as burning sensations, tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness. This level of discomfort is alarming and calls for the assistance of an ice pack or warm towel, but which is actually fit to alleviate your pain?

In this article, we will discuss whether heat therapy, cold therapy, or a combination of both is best for sciatica.

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What Is The Difference Between Heat And Ice

Ice helps reduce inflammation and numb pain, whereas heat helps relax muscles and stiff joints. While heat helps improve circulation and blood flow, ice reduces blood flow thereby reducing inflammation and swelling. As a general rule of thumb, ice should only be used for acute injuries, acute pain, or new injuries.

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Benefits Of Heat Therapy For Back Pain

Heat therapy is an effective remedy for back pain because it boosts circulation, which then allows nutrients and oxygen to travel to joints and muscles. This circulation helps repair damaged muscles, relieves inflammation, and improves back stiffness.

Any type of heat therapy can help relieve back pain. Yet, heating pads are ideal because theyre convenient and portable. Theyre also electric, so you can use them anywhere in your home, such as lying in bed or sitting on the couch.

Hot or warm baths provide moist heat, which also promote circulation and reduce muscle pain and stiffness. A bath might work better if you have pain or stiffness in other parts of your body, too.

The problem with baths, though, is that its difficult to maintain the water temperature. That water will slowly cool down.

On the other hand, heating pads have adjustable levels and provide a continuous flow of heat for as long as the pad is turned on.

If you dont have a heating pad, taking a warm shower or relaxing in a hot tub may also relieve back pain and stiffness. One benefit of a hot tub and shower over a bath is continuous heat similar to a heating pad.

Electric heating pads can get hot quickly and injure the skin, so its important to use them correctly.

When To Use Heat And Ice Therapy For Back Pain

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If you are debating between heat or cold for back pain, sometimes the answer is both. If you are planning to exercise, you can use a combination of heat and ice therapy to help manage any potential back pain.

Before starting your workout, use a warm compress to help relax the muscles in your back and prepare them for movement. Approximately 10 to 15 minutes of heat therapy is usually adequate.

After you cool down and stretch, use some cold therapy to help soothe any soreness in your muscles. You can apply the ice pack or cold compress immediately after working out or later in your day.

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Urgent Advice: Get Advice From 111 Now If:

  • your knee is very painful
  • you cannot move your knee or put any weight on it
  • your knee is badly swollen or has changed shape
  • you have a very high temperature, feel hot and shivery, and have redness or heat around your knee this can be a sign of infection

111 will tell you what to do. They can tell you the right place to get help if you need to see someone.

Go to 111.nhs.uk or .

You can also go to an urgent treatment centre if you need to see someone now.

Theyre also called walk-in centres or minor injuries units.

You may be seen quicker than you would at A& E.

When To Use Ice For Lower Back Pain

In most instances, you should use ice on your back for the first 24 to 72 hours following an injury. Cold therapy helps minimize swelling and inflammation. This, in turn, eases your pain. Cold therapy may also decrease tissue damage.

Whether you use an ice pack, a frozen towel or even a bag of frozen vegetables, place a cloth between your skin and the source of cold to prevent ice burn. Cold therapy should be applied for no more than 20 minutes at a time, but it can safely be applied up to 10 times in a 24-hour period.

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Precautions And Safety Tips

Heating pads are effective for pain management, but they can be dangerous when used improperly. Here are a few safety tips to avoid injury.

  • Dont place a heating pad or heated gel pack directly on your skin. Wrap it in a towel before applying to skin to avoid burns.
  • Dont fall asleep using a heating pad.
  • When using a heating pad, start on the lowest level and slowly increase the heat intensity.
  • Dont use a heating pad that has a cracked or broken electrical cord.
  • Dont apply a heating pad to damaged skin.

Should You Use Ice Or Heat For Your Lower Back Pain

Should I Use Ice or Heat for Back Pain?

Topical pain relief methods are most commonly used today for lower back pain relief, but truly find effective pain relief for lower back pain. Understanding how your treatments can work for your specific situation is important. For instance, heat and cold therapy can be helpful as a primary pain relief method or as an adjunctive treatment alongside physical therapy, medication, and spinal adjustments. However, for those wondering what the best ways are to treat back pain, were here to provide a basic outline for when to use heat or cold therapy for your lower back, when not to use it, and how to best combat lower back pain overall.

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How Often Should I Perform Moist Heat Therapy On My Dog

Depending on your dogs circumstances, the frequency youll want to use moist heat therapy can vary:

  • Typically, moist heat therapy can be repeated every 6 to 8 hours.
  • For dogs recovering from a surgery or injury, frequency will vary depending on how far along they are in the healing process. To get a detailed week-by-week plan for your dogs recovery from joint surgery, including heat and cold therapy, at-home exercises, and more, browse our free Home Rehab Guides for Pet Owners here.

Ice Therapy: A Few Scenarios When Its Good For Back Pain

Ice therapy, also known as cryotherapy, is generally meant for fresh injuries. The cold of an ice pack calms inflamed, hot, red or swollen tissue.

While this is your bodys natural reaction to an injury and a component of the healing process, it can be quite painful and last longer than it needs to.

Applying a cold gel pack to your freshly injured back or some other area of the body can dull pain and bring down swelling.

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Opt For Ice To Prevent Sore Muscles

If you work out or play sports frequently, you may notice sore muscles, which eventually lead to back pain. The good news is you can prevent this situation by applying ice or cold therapy to your muscles immediately after physical activities. This way you can keep tissue damage, pain, and inflammation. After 24 hours, use hot therapy to stimulate the healing of tissues.

Remember that too much of anything is never a good thing. This holds true for both cold and hot therapy. Use these treatments for lower back pain in moderation. Your doctor may encourage you to pair them with other treatments such as medications, steroid injections, and physical therapy.

In the event conservative treatments deem to be ineffective, your doctor can design a surgical plan that will help you find the relief you deserve.

All information provided on this website is for information purposes only. Please see a healthcare professional for medical advice. If you are seeking this information in an emergency situation, please call 911 and seek emergency help.

How To Apply Ice

Ice vs heat for back pain

There are several different methods for icing your lower back. For instance, you can perform ice massage therapy, which entails gently rubbing a chunk of ice over the affected area to help numb your back and reduce any pain. You can also apply ice without any massage if you have a store-bought or makeshift cold compress, such as a bag of frozen vegetables.

If you use ice for back pain, remember not to leave any ice directly on your skin for a prolonged period to avoid potential burning. If you plan to leave the cold compress in place, wrap the ice pack in a thin washcloth or a couple of paper towels to create a layer of protection between the ice and your skin. You can ice for up to 20 minutes at a time.

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Our Guidelines To Help You Benefit From Heat/cold Therapy

One of the best things about heat or cold therapy is that it is easy to use, relatively inexpensive, and readily available to everyone! It can be a useful tool for those suffering from lower back conditions and bring unexpected pain relief. Both cold and heat have their uses in helping reduce swelling related to the muscles, nerves, and other tissues surrounding the spine, and below, well describe those effects in further detail:

  • Cold Therapy: Cold therapy, either by using an ice pack or taking a cold shower, can help reduce swelling caused by inflammation, restricting the capillary blood vessels and reducing inflammation over time. Because this restriction helps create a numbing effect for those experiencing intense chronic pain, cold therapy should be used for issues such as muscle soreness and overall discomfort.
  • Heat Therapy: Heat therapy helps replenish the muscles and blood vessels, improving overall flexibility, stimulating blood flow back into the body, and helping the body transfer nutrients to those systems. Heat therapy is especially useful for chronic back pain that cannot be controlled through medication, therapy, or other means.

How Does Ice Work

First, we need to understand how each of these treatment modalities work. Lets begin with ice.

Ice has long been thought of as natures natural pain killer. It has powerful effects on the human body when applied to the skin, some of which we have only recently begun to understand.

Ice has been used for many years as a form of pain relief, and there are accounts of ice being used to treat injuries in the earliest days of mankind.

Ice works through a couple of mechanisms:

  • Ice, when applied to the skin, produces an effect called vasoconstriction in the blood vessels which basically means the small vessels narrow and shut down blood flow to that area. Thats one of the reasons ice is so useful for swelling, such as after an ankle sprain.
  • Ice also has an effect on the nerves around the area, dampening their signals which means we feel naturally less pain with an injury.
  • Ice also encourages a flushing out of the potentially harmful chemicals around an injury site and reduces inflammation.

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The Benefits Of Ice For Injury

The use of ice, or very cold temperatures, in a therapeutic capacity is known as cryotherapy. It is effective because it causes vasoconstriction, or narrowing of the blood vessels. The muscles contract, inflammation is lowered, and pain signals are reduced.

On the other hand, ice can make muscle tension and spasms worse.

Range Of Lower Back Problems That Can Benefit From Heat And Cold Therapy

Should I Use Ice or Heat for Back Pain

Heat and /or cold therapy is beneficial either as a primary or adjunctive therapy, but people often overlook this treatment because its simple, inexpensive, and readily available. The following common lower back conditions may benefit from heat or cold therapy:

  • Lower back pain from common conditions, such as herniated or degenerated discs, spinal stenosis , or spondylolisthesis

    Read more about Causes of Lower Back Pain

  • Direct lower back injury from falls, sprains, sports injuries , or collisions1
  • Pulled back muscle due to excessive strain or force leading to overstretching of the muscle fibers, such as from lifting weights1

    See Pulled Back Muscle Treatment

  • Exercise-induced muscle soreness, such as a from trying a new exercise, exercising without an initial period of warming up, or overdoing a specific exercise1

Always use heat and cold therapy intermittently, for 15 to 20 minutes, with a 2-hour break in between to avoid skin and nerve damage.

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Heat Therapy: Why A Heated Back Brace Is A Good Way To Get Rid Of Back Pain

Generally speaking, heat therapy is your best solution for sore, stiff or aching muscles, especially in the neck or back.

Your muscles typically respond well to heat, especially when your discomfort stems from overexertion, trigger points , spasms, cramps , bad posture, or restless leg syndrome.

Using a heating pad is also one of the best things you can do for easing pain or stiffness stemming from arthritis.

A heating pad can also soothe hurts-all-over pain or sensitivity stemming from fibromyalgia, sleep deprivation, rheumatic diseases or vitamin D deficiency, to name a few examples.

How Do I Prevent Sciatica

If you currently have a herniated disc or bone spur, consider taking measures to prevent sciatica pain. To do so, build your low back and abdominal muscles. These muscles support your spine and are crucial to healthy alignment. You can also practice good posture and avoid long periods of sitting or standing, as these activities place pressure on your lower back.

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