Which Is Best For You
- In regard to acute back pain, or pain you experience due to a direct injury, it is best to start with ice therapy. An acute injury is one that lasts less than a 4-week duration. By using ice first, you are lowering your bodys temperature which will reduce inflammation and swelling, constrict blood vessels and help numb the area. After doing ice therapy first, and once the inflammation has been reduced, switch to heat therapy. Using heat therapy will improve the flexibility of soft tissues, movement of muscles, and overall functionality of the injured area. Once youve changed to heat therapy, apply on and off for several hours, even days to continue improving your tissue.
- When addressing chronic back pain back pain that lasts more than a 4-week duration, you want to use heat therapy that provides constant warmth to the injured area. Examples of this include using a heating pad or a heating adhesive wrap that lays over the area, providing several hours of low-level heat therapy. When using this technique, make sure to monitor how long you are applying heat. Prolonged exposure to heat can lead to skin irritations and potentially skin damage.
Ice In The First 24 To 72 Hours
Generally it is best to apply cold therapy to your back in the first 24 to 72 hours following an injury, and back injuries are no different. Cold can help to reduce the inflammation and swelling caused by the injury. This in turn will reduce your pain by numbing the area through the slowing the response of the nerve endings and also decrease the tissue damage caused by the inflammation.
Cold can be applied in numerous ways: a frozen bag of vegetables , frozen gel packs, and ice cubes in a damp towel. Regardless of which option you choose, make sure to note the following precautions:
- To avoid burning the area, place a towel or tea-towel between the ice and your skin.
- Apply cold therapy for no more than 15-20 minutes at a time. You can re-apply cold therapy every hour up to 8 to 10 times per 24 hour period.
Reusable Cold Pack Or Ice Pack
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
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How Do You Relieve Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is so common that nearly eight out of 10 adults experience it at some point in their lives. Low back pain can disrupt your life and prevent you from participating in the activities you enjoy. Thankfully, there are steps you can take at home to relieve lower back pain.
At Aurora Health Care, our spine specialists are fully equipped to help you find relief. We use multiple tests to diagnose the cause of low back pain and offer a range of treatments to get you back to your usual activities, pain-free.
Should You Use Ice Or Heat After A Chiropractic Adjustment
This is dependent on the presenting problem. If the inflammation is from a joint in the spine or disk ice would be the way to go. If the presenting problem is from muscle spasm, heat would be beneficial. Heat would not be recommended directly after a massage or deep tissue work though. If you are unsure always go for ice
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Err On The Side Of Heat
Over the years I have seen some nasty-ish reactions to icing, particularly in the back, when the patient is feeling anxious and vulnerable and would prefer to be heated but is given ice. Some of those reactions seem out of proportion to the limited powers of ice or heat to do anything to back pain. As a result, I have come to believe that unwanted ice tends to cause nastier backfires than unwanted heat, probably because some people just really dont like being chilled. Ice is somewhat riskier simply because it tends to have a stronger negative effect on patients who dont want to be iced.
And thats why I advise people to err on the side of heat. Ill close with an anecdote that nicely illustrates the danger of cold:
I was receiving a pleasant massage from an RMT for a low back or sacroiliac joint problem. Everything was going well, and I was feeling quite a bit better, when suddenly she put an ice pack directly on my skin. She gave no warning at all, just put it on. It was so startling and unpleasant that my back muscles started to spasm, and all the good shed done was completely reversed. It was a disaster! Obviously, I never went back there …
Yet around the world, healthcare professionals are telling their patients to ice their low back pain, mostly due to their bogus overconfidence that back pain is injurious/inflammatory in nature and thus will respond well to ice.
Does Cold Therapy Help Arthritis Pain
Yes. Cold packs numb the sore area and reduce inflammation and swelling. Ice packs are especially good for joint pain caused by an arthritis flare. You might also try using a local spray such as fluoromethane on your back or painful area before and after exercise. This superficial cooling decreases muscle spasms and increases the threshold for pain. Or you can make instant cold packs from frozen bags of vegetables.
Some patients prefer cold therapy to moist heat for arthritis pain, while others tell of having the best relief when they alternate the sessions with moist heat and ice. You can experiment with moist heat and ice therapy and then select the method that gives the best relief with the least trouble or expense.
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When Not To Use Ice
Cold is not suitable if:
- there is a risk of cramping, as cold can make this worse
- the person is already cold or the area is already numb
- there is an open wound or blistered skin
- the person has some kind of vascular disease or injury, or sympathetic dysfunction, in which a nerve disorder affects blood flow
- the person is hypersensitive to cold
Ice should not be used immediately before activity.
It should not be applied directly to the skin, as this can freeze and damage body tissues, possibly leading to frostbite.
Professional athletes may use ice massage, cold water immersion, and whole-body cryotherapy chambers to exercise-induced muscle damage that can lead to delayed onset muscle soreness . DOMS commonly emerges 24 to 48 hours after exercise.
A study published in The Cochrane Library in 2012 suggested that a cold bath after exercise may help prevent DOMS, compared with resting or doing nothing.
The participants spent between 5 and 24 minutes in water between 50 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit, or 10 to 15 degrees Celsius.
However, the researchers were not certain whether there may be negative side effects, or if another strategy might be more helpful.
Cryotherapy is primarily a pain-reliever. It will not repair tissues.
Find Relief From Back Pain After Exercise With Ice
When treating your back, your doctor will probably advise you to do some exercise. Exercising is a way of obtaining power to get stronger in your back area. Cold after the exercise will be great.Maybe youâre doing some yoga, walking, going to the gym, or making some workout at home. Your back pain will start easing off as your muscles get stronger, and physical therapy is a great way to help.Applying ice after the exercise is a great idea.Youâll get excellent results by doing it. Here are some advantages of cold after a workout.
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Risks Of Heat Therapy
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.
Helps You To Avoid Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
Sometimes, muscle soreness appears 2 or 3 days after a workout. Your body might feel alright right after it, but your muscles will get through a tangling process that can last up to 72 hours. In this case, youâll feel the soreness in your back even days after the workout.Delayed onset muscle soreness can happen, for example, when you try a new workout. Experts recommend using ice after the exercise stops, which will decrease the possibility of developing muscle soreness. Applying cold to your back will numb the tissues and prevent the tangling of muscles.
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Why Alternating Hot And Cold Therapy Is Good For Injuries
Both heat and ice have their uses in treating injury. In order to understand the benefits of contrast therapy, its useful to know exactly when and why heat and ice work for pain reliefand when they dont.
When alternating between hot and cold therapy, a hot-and-cold therapy pack is a useful tool to have on hand. Freeze it for cold therapy or warm it in the microwave for heat.
Alternating Hold And Cold Therapy Benefits
Clearly, both ice and heat bring something to the table in terms of pain relief and healing. Sometimes, choosing one over the other simply may not provide enough relief, which is where contrast therapy comes in.
With this gentle method, you can simultaneously reduce inflammation, stimulate circulation, and loosen tight muscles, thereby easing your pain.
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Which Injuries Do Contrast Therapy Work Best For
Contrast therapy will relieve pain and swelling associated with a variety of injuries. It’s most effective to treat pain in the hands and lower body.
This versatile treatment can be used for a variety of conditions, including:
- Strains and sprains of the foot, ankle, elbow, knee, wrist, neck, or shoulder
- Flare-ups of chronic conditions, such as arthritis or fibromyalgia
- Some pains associated with cancer
- Any other injury that causes swelling or aching
Chronic lower back pain may or may not respond to contrast therapymany sufferers find they enjoy greater relief from all-day heat wraps.
Although the hip joint causes problems for many, it is not usually the best candidate for contrast therapy due to its size and the fact that it is often padded with fat. However, given the simplicity and cost effectiveness of hot and cold therapy, its worth trying contrast therapy for many conditions that cause pain.
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.
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When To Use Heat Therapy For Back Pain
Is heat good for back pain? The answer depends on what type of back pain you are trying to address. If you are living with chronic pain or discomfort that lasts for more than four weeks, heat may help relax the tissues in the area and decrease pain signals. Heat can also encourage blood vessels in your back to dilate, which can promote healing.
Should I Use Ice Or Heat Therapy To Reduce My Lower Back Pain
There are many types of therapies that can bring pain relief to our lower back. Ice and heat are some of the most commonly used at-home therapies, yet often overlooked due to their ease and accessibility.
It is important to know that the appropriateness and benefits of applying ice or heat can vary and that every situation is unique. Start with an understanding of the type of lower back pain you are experiencing and its cause. This will help you determine if and when ice or heat should be used in order to get the most benefit and reduce pain.
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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
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:
- 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.
When To Use Hot Or Cold Treatment For Back Pain
If you are suffering with back pain, whether it is in the neck, between the shoulder blades or in the lower back, it can sometimes be difficult to know what to do. Do you sit, rest, keep active, use heat or cold?
The most common cause of back pain is when the joints of the back become restricted due to abnormal stress such as, incorrect posture, degeneration and emotional stress. This causes tightening and inflammation around the joints resulting in muscles tightening in order to protect that area of the spine from further trauma. However, muscle tightness, causes the joint to be even more restricted in movement and therefore causes more joint inflammation and the cycle continues. People suffer from different types of back pain, some with tightening but others without, and therefore they will require a different treatment plan.
Secondary problems of muscle tightness and joint inflammation require ongoing treatment so there are certain things you can do to relieve the pain.
The recommended treatment for back pain without muscle tightness is a cold treatment. This is simply a cold pack applied to the injury, which acts like a painkiller reducing the inflammation. A cold treatment can be used in any area of inflammation. i.e. spine or joint inflammation and restriction, knee swelling, sprained ankle etc.
Hot & Cold Treatment
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Ice To Relieve Back Pain
Ice and cold packs can relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation from injuries and other conditions such as arthritis. Use either a commercial cold pack or:
- An ice towel. Wet a towel with cold water, and squeeze it until it is just damp. Fold the towel, place it in a plastic bag, and freeze it for 15 minutes. Remove the towel from the bag, and place it on the affected area.
- An ice pack. Put about 1 lb of ice in a plastic bag. Add water to barely cover the ice. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal it. Wrap the bag in a wet towel and apply it to the affected area.
- A homemade slush pack. Mix 3 cup water and 1 cup denatured alcohol in a freezer bag. Seal the bag, and place it in freezer until slush forms. Refreeze the bag when the slush melts.
- A bag of frozen vegetables.
- An ice cup. Fill a paper cup two-thirds full with water, and freeze it until it is solid ice. Before use, peel back enough paper to expose some of the ice. Rub the ice over the affected area for 3 to 5 minutes.
Ice the area at least 3 times a day. For the first 72 hours , ice for 10 minutes once an hour the first day, then every 2 to 3 hours. After that, a good pattern is to ice for 10 to 15 minutes 3 times a day: in the morning, in the late afternoon after work or school, and about a half hour before bedtime. Also ice after any prolonged activity or vigorous exercise.
When To Use Heat For Back Pain
On the other hand, if you have chronic back pain, heat may be better than ice. The Cleveland Clinic indicates that If youre dealing with lingering injuries then its okay to use heat. The increased blood flow relaxes tight muscles and relieves aching joints. This is especially helpful to improve range of motion on a joint that maybe isnt moving as well.
If you live with ongoing back pain, heat may be your answer to temporary relief and stretching safely.
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