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Do You Use Heat Or Ice For Back Pain

Is Ice Or Heat Better For Back Pain

HEAT or COLD for Back Pain Is heat or ice best for pain and injuries?

Back pain is a prevalent experience for most people at some point in their adult lives. Applying heat or ice is one of the tried-and-true methods of at-home treatment for back pain, but how do you know which method to use and when? Get to know how to use ice or heat for back pain and when to use both.

Two Types Of Heat Treatment

Thereare two ways in which you can administer heat to sore, stiff muscles in yourback or neck.

  • Dry heat this is otherwise known as conducted heat therapy and it refers to heating pads, saunas, and dry heating pads.
  • Moist heat this is otherwise known as convection heat and it refers to heat treatments such as hot baths and steamed towels. A study published in the Journal of Clinical MedicineResearch found that moist heat is a bit more effective than dry heat and can be applied with better results in a shorter amount of time.

Should I Use Ice Or Heat For Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common global pain conditions, affecting 80% of people in their lifetime. It costs the U.S. an estimated $50 billion in direct medical expenses, and another $50 billion in indirect costs . Bottom line: recovering from back pain quickly, safely, and inexpensively is crucial. There are a variety of ways to treat both acute and chronic back pain, but none fits the bill quite as well ice and heat therapy. But different types of pain require different solutions. Do you use ice or heat for back pain? Heres how to decide.

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Pain Management With Heat & Cold Therapy

Using heat and cold therapy is one of the best ways for you to manage your pain right from the comfort of your home. In addition to avoiding the side effects of over the counter pain relievers, this kind of therapy can help the healing process move along faster by lowering inflammation for new injuries and improving range of motion for older injuries.

Whether you use heat or cold to treat your pain depends mostly on one thing: when the injury occurred. If youre experiencing acute pain or you have a new injury that is swollen or inflamed, then cold therapy will work best for you. If youre experiencing chronic pain or your injury is more than a day old, then heat therapy will work best for you. Of course, these are not hard and fast rules. So if you try either of these out and it is unpleasant, switch to the opposite to try to find some relief.

Risks Of Heat Therapy

Back Pain: Should you use ice or heat for back pain?

Heat therapy should utilize warm temperatures instead of hot ones. If you use heat thats too hot, you can burn the skin. If you have an infection and use heat therapy, there is a chance that the heat therapy could increase the risk of the infection spreading. Heat applied directly to a local area, like with heating packs, should not be used for more than 20 minutes at a time.

If you experience increased swelling, stop the treatment immediately.

If heat therapy hasnt helped lessen any pain or discomfort after a week, or the pain increases within a few days, make an appointment to see your doctor.

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When To Use Heat And Ice Therapy For Back Pain

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.

Should You Use Heat Or Ice For Knee Pain

Should You Use Heat Or Ice For Knee Pain?

According to, Knee pain is prevalent in 18% of the US population. The incidence of knee pain is slightly higher in women than in men. Studies indicate that the pain gets worse with age and that obese and overweight individuals are highly susceptible to it. Other risk factors include osteoarthritis, fractures, overuse, gout and so on. If you dont tackle knee pain early, the joint may degenerate to a level where surgery is the only option for treatment. As you know, knee replacement surgery is ridiculously expensive and complex. You definitely dont want to walk down that path.

Knee pain can cause extreme discomfort and prevent mobility. This has a negative impact on a persons social life and emotional well being. In many cases, it can even prevent the individual from working in certain environments and lead to heavy financial losses. Knee pain is one problem that you must nip in the bud or else it can destroy your life, really! If you think that is an overstatement, ask a person who suffers from chronic pain.

Physiotherapy, compression knee pain wraps, light massage, icing , heating and acupressure are all effective against knee pain IF you do them right. All of these approaches are hassle free and inexpensive. But should you use heat or ice for knee pain? Let us take a closer look at what the science says.

The Benefits of Ice for Knee Pain

The Benefits of Heat for Knee Pain

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When To Use Cold Therapy For Back Pain

  • Acute back injury: Ice for back pain can be an effective pain reliever if you are experiencing an acute injury. For example, maybe you strained the muscles of your lower back by lifting something too heavy. The cold from the ice can help to reduce inflammation in the affected area. If you want to address an acute injury, its best to apply cold therapy within two days of the injury.
  • Soreness from exercise: Exercise can help alleviate and even prevent recurrent back pain. Depending on the types of exercise you are doing and the intensity, you might feel sore after a workout. The cold can help ease the strain and tension in your muscles.
  • Sciatica: Sciatica is the name for pain in the sciatic nerve, which begins in the lower back and travels down through the buttocks and the legs. If you are having a sciatica flare-up, immediate application of cold therapy can help to reduce the pain and inflammation. Cold therapy may also help reduce the muscle spasms associated with sciatica.

When To Ice It

Ice or Heat? When & How To Use For Injury Recovery Pain Relief

As a general rule of thumb, ice should only be used for acute injuries, acute pain, or new injuries. Because an acute injury causes inflammation and swelling, ice the best to dull the pain associated with those reactions. It can also temporarily dull the nerves in the area, which can help in pain relief if only for a short time. You should only use ice for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.

Although ice can help in reducing inflammation, swelling, and pain, there are some minor problems associated with ice if used improperly. If you ice for too long, you can cause your joints in the affected area to feel tighter and stiffer, increasing pain instead of relieving it. You need to be especially careful on icing chronic muscle pain versus an injury. Muscle pain does not always mean an injury, but rather aggravation. Common chronic pain problems that you may mistakenly use ice for are back pain and neck pain. Chronic back and neck pain should be treated with heat instead.

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Is Ice Better Than Heat Is Heat Better Than Ice

Ideal uses of ice and heat are roughly equal in potency which isnt very potent. Neither is strong medicine. Some experiments have shown that both have only mild benefits, and those benefits areroughly equal in treating back pain.7 The reason to use them is not that they are highly effective treatments they rarely are but because they are so cheap, easy, and mostly safe, especially compared to many other popular treatments.8

Warnings When Applying Ice To The Skin

Along with the importanceof not applying ice to your skin for longer than is considered safe so as toprevent damage, there are some special precautions you should follow.

  • Avoid using ice therapy if you have a heart condition unless your doctor gives you the go-ahead.
  • If youve applied ice packs to your injury but it hasnt alleviated the pain and swelling within two days, make an appointment with your doctor.
  • Dont use ice to treat stiffness, such as a stiff neck, as that can actually make it worse. This is because ice constricts the blood vessels, and thats the last thing you want to do if youre suffering from stiffness. You want to increase neck flexibility by boosting blood circulation, which is where heat treatments can prove beneficial.

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Should You Use Heat Or Ice For A Stiff Neck

Applying both heat and ice to your neck can help ease pain in the area. But which should you choose?

Ice therapy used for too long can result in damage. If you have diabetes, or another condition that reduces your sensitivity you should avoid using ice therapy. Also, if you have poor circulation, ice therapy should not be used. Individuals with cardiovascular or heart disease should consult with their doctor before using ice therapy.

Heat therapy can be used for longer periods of time but there are still risks to watch out for. Certain conditions may make you more prone to burns or complications from the heat. If you have diabetes, multiple sclerosis, dermatitis or a vascular disease, you should not use heat therapy. Individuals with heart disease or who are pregnant should consult with their doctor before using heat therapy.

In general, cold therapy is usually appropriate when you have acute pain and inflammation in an area. The cold can help reduce the swelling which may be contributing to the pain.

Heat therapy, on the other hand, is often helpful when you have stiff joints. This makes it a good choice for individuals with a stiff neck.

Have you tried heat or cold therapy? Which do you prefer? Leave a comment on our post on .

Heat Or Ice For Back Pain

Should You Use Ice or Heat for Back Pain? What Experts Say

Should you use heat or ice for back pain? The best answer depends on the specific circumstances of the painful condition. Heat and ice are medical traditions going back thousands of years. They are free , easy to use and are almost always available for providing home back pain relief. Although almost everyone knows that both ice and heat can be therapeutic, patients often wonder which to use, for how long and in what manner.

The scope of this article is to provide basic information on using heat and/or ice to treat back ache effectively at home.

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When To Use Heat Versus Ice For Pain

Depending on the type of pain you have, one may be better than the other.

Every pain is different. Each type can be a symptom of an underlying issue, an unpleasant sidekick to a condition, or an overall nuisance on everyday life. Treating pain can vary as well. While going straight to the doctor or trying an over-the-counter medication are options, another can be applying hot or cold compresses to the area where the pain is happening.

Should You Use Heat Or Ice With Sciatica

I get a lot of people reaching out to me to ask about the best tips for sciatic nerve pain relief. Luckily, thats exactly what I do! Ice and heat are really useful, totally natural pain relieving methods for a variety of injuries. Today, we are going to talk about when you should use ice and when you should use heat for sciatica pain relief.

Before we dive in, please be aware that we are part of the Amazon Affiliate programme. This page may contain Amazon affiliate links, so if you choose to purchase a product for your sciatica that we recommend through a link on this page, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps us keep Overcome Sciatica alive! Thank you for your support. Please be assured that we only ever recommend products that we truly believe can help.

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So What Do You Do After A Back Injury

For back strain, people often use ice for the first 48 to 72 hours. Heat increases blood flow and inflammation, and it may not be a good idea at first

After those first few days, most experts recommend the use of either ice or heat, according to your preference. While researchers continue to look into the best ways to treat an acute injury, most doctors still recommend ice as the first line of defense for a back injury.

A 2011 review of studies published in the British Medical Journal Clinical Evidence evaluated 20 different categories of treatment to learn about their safety and effectiveness. Treatments included over-the-counter pain medications such as NSAIDs, acupuncture, McKenzie exercises , and temperature treatments.

The researchers were seeking answers to the following questions:

  • What are the effects of oral drug treatments for acute low back pain?
  • What are the effects of local injections for acute low back pain?
  • What are the effects of non-drug treatments for acute low back pain?

As far as temperature studies go, the review found moderate-quality evidence that using a heat wrap 5 days after the injury may relieve pain. Just the same, the authors cited that overall they did not find enough evidence to judge the effectiveness of any type of temperature treatment.

Warnings When Using Heat Therapy

Ice or Heat for Lower Back Pain (WHICH WORKS BEST?)

Althoughheat therapy offers many benefits when treating pain, it also has someimportant information you should consider before proceeding with it.

  • You should never use heat on muscles that have been injured as this can actually cause swelling to get worse!
  • Always make sure the heat youre using is warm instead of hot as that can burn your skin.
  • If youve used heat therapy on your sore neck or back and it hasnt made your pain better after a week, you should consult with your doctor as you might require medication to treat the pain.

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If You Answered With Pain In The Back

You might want to try alternating between heat and ice on the lower back if your main sciatica symptom is back pain.

If you applied ice alone to your lower back, you might get some effective pain relief, but I found that my clients complained of worsening stiffness when they treat their back with just ice. For this reason, I would suggest you try for the best of both worlds and get the pain relieving effects of ice AND the mobility improvements that heat bring.

The other advantage of trying both is that you will get the chance to feel which one works best for YOU. As everyone is different, its important to take note of how you feel after each treatment.

To use this method:

  • Take a bag of frozen peas from the freezer
  • Wrap a thin towel around them
  • Dampen the towel slightly, then apply to the painful area for 15 minutes
  • Remove the peas/towel
  • Take a hot water bottle
  • Apply it immediately to your lower back, where the ice was earlier
  • Keep it there for 15 minutes, then remove
  • Go back to the peas/ice and repeat the process as many times as you need
  • Always look out for any signs of ice or heat burn on your skin and remove immediately if you see or feel anything.

Use Cold First And Then Apply Heat For Acute Back Pain

When your back pain is acute and/or occurs due to a direct injury, use cold therapy first.2 Lowering the body temperature will help constrict the blood vessels, reduce swelling, decrease inflammation, and cause a numbing effect.1,3

See Ice Packs for Back Pain Relief

Once the inflammation has subsided, use heat therapy. When you apply heat, it improves the flexibility of soft tissues, movement of muscles, and overall functioning of the back. The local warmth stimulates blood circulation in your lower back, which in turn brings healing nutrients to the injured tissues.

It is also advised to continue using heat therapy intermittently for several hours or days in order to improve tissue healing and prevent recurrence of pain.2

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Types Of Warm Packs Or Pads

Warm towel

  • Dampen a towel with warm water.

  • Put on the affected area to ease muscle spasm.

  • Heating pad

    Be sure to protect any type of heating pad device from coming in directcontact with the skin. Precautions should be taken to avoid burns,especially if you have nerve damage, such as from diabetes or other healthproblems.

    When muscles work, chemical byproducts are made that need to be eliminated.When exercise is very intense, there may not be enough blood flow toeliminate all the chemicals. It is the buildup of chemicals that cause muscle ache. Because the blood supply helpseliminate these chemicals, use heat to help sore muscles after exercise.

    Tips To Combine Heat And Cold Therapy In Your Daily Routine

    Pain Relief: How can you ease the pain and get back in the ...

    Here are a few tips to help you incorporate the use of heat and/or cold therapy in your everyday activities:

    • Keep a heat patch near your beduse it first thing in the morning to warm up your muscles if you wake up with an achy or stiff back
    • Apply a cold patch before bed if you have exercised or exerted your back
    • Use heat therapy before sleeping and after waking up if you have chronic back pain
    • Carry a couple of self-activating heat patches and ice packs in your bag or car to use while driving or at work

    You are more likely to benefit from heat and cold therapy when you make these treatments a part of your daily routine.

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