Saturday, May 18, 2024
HomeTrendingHow To Alternate Heat And Ice For Back Pain

How To Alternate Heat And Ice For Back Pain

Hot And Cold Therapy Benefits

Ice Or Heat For Back Pain Relief & Injury?


  • Ice therapy relieves inflammation.
  • If you expose yourself to extremely low temperatures after a hard workout, you will be able to decrease tissue damage.
  • Support faster recovery
  • Ideal for relieving acute pain
  • Beneficial for people who are suffering from a nagging injury as the cold temperature is capable of decreasing pain during flare-ups
  • Reduces swelling
  • Numbs nerve receptors for instant pain management
  • Eliminates dead blood cells out of the body
  • Ice is most effective within 48 hrs. of an injury.
  • It is used as a standard treatment in case of any sports injury.


When To Ice It

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.

How To Apply Ice To Relieve Back Pain

This article was medically reviewed by Luba Lee, FNP-BC, MS. Luba Lee, FNP-BC is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner and educator in Tennessee with over a decade of clinical experience. Luba has certifications in Pediatric Advanced Life Support , Emergency Medicine, Advanced Cardiac Life Support , Team Building, and Critical Care Nursing. She received her Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Tennessee in 2006.There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 98,005 times.

Experts say that back pain is extremely common, and most people will experience it at some point in their lives.XResearch source Research suggests that ice may help relieve back pain by stimulating your nerves, and it may also reduce swelling or inflammation around the painful area.XTrustworthy SourceHarvard Medical SchoolHarvard Medical School’s Educational Site for the PublicGo to source While there’s no proof that it will work for you, it’s usually safe to apply ice at home in a cold compress or during an ice massage. Back pain usually improves after a few weeks of self care, but talk to your doctor if your pain persists.

You May Like: How To Get Rid Of Aching Back Pain

What About Injured Muscle Muscle Strains

If youre supposed to ice injuries, but not muscle pain, then what do you do with injured muscles ? That can be a tough call, but ice usually wins but onlyfor the first few days at most, and only if it really is a true muscle injury. A true muscle injury usually involves obvious trauma during intense effort, causing severe pain suddenly. If the muscle is truly torn, then use ice to take the edge off the inflammation at first. Once the worst is over, switch to heat.

Reusable Cold Pack Or Ice Pack

Should I Use Ice or Heat for My Lower Back Pain?

Many types of reusable ice packs are available at drug stores and general merchandise stores. These cold packs can be kept in the freezer ready for use when needed, and re-frozen after each use. For an inexpensive alternative, reusable cold packs can be made at home.

Here are 5 quick and easy homemade ice packs to try. Watch:Video: How to Make 5 Quick and Easy Ice Packs

Recommended Reading: What Is Fusion Surgery Lower Back

Ice Vs Heat: When To Use Each One

Its the great pain debate: ice vs. heat. Both can help soothe pain and reduce inflammation. But, which one should you be using and when?

Using ice and heat for therapy is an easy way to care for your injury or manage your pain at home. However, theres a lot of confusion as to when to use ice vs. heat for injuries and pain. Also known as cryotherapy and thermotherapy, both of these therapies are excellent ways to reduce inflammation and pressure and help reduce pain. In order for these therapies to work, however, they must be used appropriately.

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.

Read Also: How To Get Rid Of Lower Back Pain Exercises

Do I Use Heat Or Ice For Neck Pain

In pain and not sure if you should grab the ice pack or heating pad? Youre not alone. That simple question on Google currently yields 24 million results.

So, which is it? The general recommendation is to use ice for the first 24 to 48 hours after an injury, which will help reduce swelling. Then, use heat to loosen muscles and improve stiffness.

What does ice do for an injury? It slows the nerve impulses by interrupting the pain-spasm reaction between nerves. It also helps numb sore tissues, providing relief like a local anesthetic. Ice can also reduce damage to tissues, reducing swelling and slowing the inflammation after the injury.

What does heat do for an injury? Heat loosens the muscles and improve stiffness. Heat may be applied with warm showers, hot compresses, or a heating pad.

Whether its cold or heat youre applying to an injury, keep it on for only about 20 minutes at a time, then leave off for at least 40 minutes. Never put the ice or heat source directly against your skin- wrap it in a towel to prevent a burn.

For acute pain relief, visit your chiropractor to address the source of the issue. X-rays will give insight to whether the issue is a disc or muscle ligament issue, then regular adjustments will help you stay out of pain.

  • Monday8 AM – 6 PM
  • Tuesday8 AM – 6 PM
  • Wednesday8 AM – 6 PM
  • Thursday8 AM – 6 PM
  • Friday8 AM – 6 PM
  • SaturdayClosed

How To Do Hot And Cold Therapy: Step By Step Instructions

Ice Therapy for Back Pain

Hot and cold therapy can be accomplished through a careful alternation of temperatures.To put it very simply:

  • Apply cold for 1 minute
  • Then switch to 3 minutes of heat
  • Again use 1 minute of cold
  • Switch back to heat for 3 minutes
  • Apply your cold item for 1 minute
  • Heat the area for 3 minutes
  • Then wrap up the session with a cold application for one minute.

This process should be repeated at most twice per day, dependent upon your injury and level of pain.

Read Also: What Exercise Equipment Is Good For Lower Back Pain

Much Much More Hot And Cold Information

Heat for Pain and Rehab A detailed guide to using heat as therapy for acute and chronic pain and recovery from injury

Hot Baths for Injury & Pain Tips for getting the most benefit from a hot soak, the oldest form of therapy

Never Use Ice on Low Back Pain! An important exception to conventional wisdom about icing and heating

Other closely related topics:

The Benefits Of Hot And Cold Therapy

Ice is commonly used in the treatment of injury to lower inflammation and lessen pain. This practice, called cryotherapy, constricts blood vessels. This, in turn, causes muscle contractions and minimizes inflammation. However, it is essential to note that an excess of cold can lead to additional muscle tensions and spasms.Heat therapy works by widening the blood vessels, which minimizes cramping and relieves pain in the process. When the blood flows more freely as stimulated by heat, more of the healing components of blood can reach a problem area. The biggest downside of heat is that overuse leads to inflammation!

Also Check: What To Do If You Pull Your Lower Back

Best Practices: How To Ice Your Back

  • Apply ice to the sore area for 10 minutes every hour.
  • Stick to the every-hour schedule. The more often the cycle/transition happens, the faster your body can heal.
  • Place a thin barrier like a towel between the skin and ice pack to prevent skin damage.
  • If youre using ice therapy for therapeutic or athletic reasons, you should do so several hours after your workout. Ideally, this should be done the first thing in the morning/and or right before bed.
  • Hot Or Cold For Back Pain

    Should I Use Ice or Heat for Back Pain?

    Q.Which is best for pain and stiffness from a sore backheat or cold?

    A. When choosing between heat and cold, you may be a better judge than your doctor. Nerve fibers that carry pain sensation also sense change in temperature. As a result, stimulating the nerves with either heat or cold can diminish your discomfort, so you can choose which one to try. Both may ease your pain.

    To continue reading this article, you must log in.

    • Research health conditions
    • Prepare for a doctor’s visit or test
    • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
    • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise

    Don’t Miss: How To Relieve Lower Back Pain From Period

    When Not To Use Heat

    Heat is not suitable for all injury types. Any injury that is already hot will not benefit from further warming. These include infections, burns, or fresh injuries.

    Heat should not be used if:

    • the skin is hot, red or inflamed
    • the person has dermatitis or an open wound
    • the area is numb
    • the person may be insensitive to heat due to peripheral neuropathy or a similar condition

    Ask a doctor first about using heat or cold on a person who hashigh blood pressure or heart disease.

    Excessive heat must be avoided.

    When cold is applied to the body, the blood vessels contract, vasoconstriction occurs. This means that circulation is reduced, and pain decreases.

    Removing the cold causes vasodilation, as the veins expand to overcompensate.

    As the blood vessels expand, circulation improves, and the incoming flow of blood brings nutrients to help the injured tissues heal.

    Alternating heat and cold can be useful for:

    • osteoarthritis
    • exercise-induced injury or DOMS

    Contrast water therapy uses both heat and cold to treat pain. Studies show that it is more effective at reducing EIMD and preventing DOMS than doing nothing.

    A review of studies has suggested that, for elite athletes, CWT is better at reducing muscle pain after exercise compared with doing nothing or resting.

    However, the researchers point out that it may not better than other strategies, such as heat treatment, cold treatment, stretching, or compression. They say that more evidence is necessary.

    Fast Facts On Cold And Heat Treatment:

    • Cold treatment reduces inflammation by decreasing blood flow. Apply within 48 hours after an injury.
    • Heat treatment promotes blood flow and helps muscles relax. Use for chronic pain.
    • Alternating heat and cold may help reduce exercise-induced muscle pain.
    • Never use extreme heat, and never put ice directly on the skin.

    Cold treatment reduces blood flow to an injured area. This slows the rate of inflammation and reduces the risk of swelling and tissue damage.

    It also numbs sore tissues, acting as a local anesthetic, and slows down the pain messages being transmitted to the brain.

    Ice can help treat a swollen and inflamed joint or muscle. It is most effective within 48 hours of an injury.

    Rest, ice, compression and elevation are part of the standard treatment for sports injuries.

    Note that ice should not normally be applied directly to the skin.

    Don’t Miss: Is Sleeping On The Floor Good For Lower Back Pain

    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

    The Benefits Of Heat For Injury

    How to Correctly Apply Ice to Back Pain or Sciatica Pain

    Heat therapy works in the opposite mannerit is a vasodilator, which increases circulation by expanding the blood vessels. This reduces pain and relieves cramping or aching muscles.

    It also draws nutrients to the injured area, aiding the healing process, while helping the bodys cells get rid of waste products.

    Unlike ice, heat can make inflammation worse.

    Also Check: How To Stretch Lower Back Pain

    Diy Heat And Cooling Packs

    To create a cooling pack on your own, take a frozen item and wrap it in cloth. This might be an ice pack or bagged frozen vegetables such as corn or peas. You may also fill a plastic bag with ice or place a towel soaked in cold water into the freezer for approximately fifteen minutes.To make heating elements at home, try soaking towels in hot water then applying them to the skin. You can also fill a cloth item like a sock with white rice, seal it, and then microwave it for about one minute. If you have massage stones, you can heat these as directed by the manufacturer and use them. When doing heat therapy with homemade tools, be very cautious about the risk of burn constantly checking the temperature before application.

    Should I Use Ice Or Heat How To Choose

    Ice or heat: Which is better for an injury? We could fill pages with all the different scenarios where you might have to decide whether to use heat or ice to treat pain. But, as a general rule of thumb, we recommend this: If its bleeding or swelling, start with ice.

    Depending on the extent of the injury, you may also want to go ahead and call your doctor. But, if you opt to wait, use ice for 48 hours. Then, if its still swollen and painful, definitely make a doctors appointment. This rule holds true even if you suspect you have injured a muscle.

    Recommended Reading: Do Orthotics Help Back Pain

    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.

    When To Use Heat And Ice Therapy For Back Pain

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

    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.

    You May Like: What Kind Of Doctor For Neck And Back Pain


    Most Popular