What Is Heat Therapy
The best way to remember what heat therapy does is to recognize its purpose is to soothe the pain in a particular area or region of the body. Heat therapy works by increasing the temperature around an area of your body that is hurting such as a muscle. When your bodys temperature rises, it improves blood flow and circulation, so when you increase the temperature in a specific area of the body, its going to increase the circulation in that particular area. When you have pain coming from one specific muscle or set of muscles increasing circulation helps to relax the muscle, ultimately easing pain and discomfort. Since it improves blood flow and circulation, it can be an effective way to heal damaged tissues, as well.
At this point, its important to mention one major thing: when we say heat therapy, were not talking about putting anything really hot against your skin. Were talking a steady, warm heat. Anything that is going to burn you or cause even greater pain or discomfort is just too hot and should never be used for heat therapy.
Heat therapy can either be administered through dry heat or moist heat, but one isnt necessarily better than the other. It comes down to your preference try both to see which one brings you the most relief. Dry heat is the kind of heat youll get from heating pads, hot water bottles, heat patches and wraps or saunas. On the other hand, moist heat is the kind of heat youd obtain through a hot bath or a steam towel.
Types Of Heat Therapy Application For Sciatica
There are two types moist heat and dry heat.
Moist heat: You can get moist heat from steamed towels, hot baths, and moist heating packs.
Dry heat: this may remove moisture from your body and dehydrate your skin. Dry heat can come from electric heating pads and saunas.
The choice for any of the two heat therapy types can differ from person to person. To ascertain the right type for yourself, you will need to experiment and pick the one that best suits you.
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Getting To The Root Of Your Lower Back Pain
Before you learn about the ways to relieve lower back pain, you need to learn what’s causing your sore back. Lower back pain can stem from a number of issues. Maybe you slept funny, or you lifted something a little heavy.
Knowing the possible cause of injury can help you choose the best way to relieve lower back pain, so be sure to pay attention. If, for example, youve suffered an injury, youre experiencing numbness and tingling, or even weakness, your back pain may be a symptom of something much more serious. In this case, you should call your doctor straight away.
If, however, you know that your sore lower back is from something mild like a pulled muscle or poor sleep position, turning to ice, heat, or some other method of lower back pain therapy could be enough to do the trick.
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When To Not Use Heat Or Cold For Your Lower Back
There are some conditions and situations that should not be treated with heat or cold therapy. For example:
- These therapies must not be used on open wounds, bleeds, or when there is any fluid oozing out of the painful region.
- If you have certain chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis, poor circulation, spinal cord injuries, diabetes mellitus, and/or rheumatoid arthritis, it is advised to avoid heat therapy. Heat in these conditions may cause excessive burns, skin ulceration, and/or increased inflammation.1
It is also advisable to avoid laying directly on the heat source due to the risk of burns, skin damage, or permanent changes in skin color. A protective barrier such as a cloth or towel may be used between your skin and the source of heat.
In general, many people feel heat therapy works better to relieve their lower back pain compared to cold. Also, taking oral pain-relieving drugs while using these therapies may have an added effect on the overall pain relief.2
Neck Pain From Sleeping Is Manageable
Neck pain from sleeping can be your worst nightmare in the morning. This can be caused by sleeping on your stomach, sleeping with your hand placed on the forehead, or having pillow problems like stiff or thick pillows cramping your comfort level during sleep.
Luckily, sleep posture matters. Try sleeping on your back or side, or sleep without a pillow. Sleeping without a pillow is known to benefit the neck, spine, and face. At the same time, it might also improve the quality of your sleep.
Other ways to relieve neck pain include neck exercises, showers or baths, applying heat or cold, acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic care, and an anti-inflammatory diet.
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Ice Or Heat And What To Use When
There has always been confusion surrounding heating versus icing injuries. The line has never been drawn on what to use unless you see your doctor, of course.
The truth is, there is a clear line that tells you when to heat and when to ice without going straight to the emergency room. Treatment for an injury is determined by its location and the type of injury sustained. Not only will we explain when to ice and when to heat, but we will also explain why.
Strengthen Your Back With Exercise
Exercise regularly to maintain stability, range of motion and a heathy weight. Well talk about targeted back exercise in just a bit, but its important to know that exercise of any type can help you build muscle strength.
Many people with chronic back pain see improvement with physical activity. If you sit most of the time at your job, be sure to get up every hour and move around. If your old go-to exercises arent as enjoyable because they make your back hurt, explore alternatives.
Exercises that are soft on your joints, like water aerobics and yoga, are popular exercises for people with back pain. Look for low-impact exercises offered at your local community center or gym. Your local public school may also offer open swim times or other community classes.
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Heat Interrupts Transmission Of Pain Signals
The gate-control theory of pain involves sensory receptors that are located at nerve endings. Receptors compete with one another to reach the brain, and it is possible that one set of activated receptors mutes or blocks another set of receptors. Heat therapy activates heat-sensitive calcium channels that can block pain receptors directly or stimulate other sensory receptors to reduce pain indirectly.1
How Does Heat Work
When we say heat, what we mean usually is a warm compress, hot water bottle or wheat cushion applied to an area of skin around an injury. You could also get these effects from a hot bath or shower, but this would be a less targeted way of treating an area.
Heat works roughly in the opposite way that ice works. It, too, has a number of effects to the body when applied around an injury:
- Heat causes an effect called vasodilation to the blood vessels around an area which means a widening of the vessels, increasing blood flow to an injured site. You wouldnt want to use heat on a recently sprained ankle
- Heat doesnt affect the nerves like ice does, but it does increase healthy blood flow to an area, which can cause an increased rate of healing to some injuries . It also helps to flush away the nasties within the blood that invade an injured area.
- Heat has an effect on the surrounding muscles and joints whereby it loosens them up by making the tissues more elastic and pliable. This basically means you can increase the flexibility of an area just by heating it up. Try to stretch a muscle in the cold, then try to stretch the same muscle after a hot shower youll find you can stretch way further after the hot treatment.
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Dr David Julius Versus The Spice
The first of the Nobel proteins is often called the capsaicin receptor, because it reacts to the active ingredient in chili pepper. It was discovered by looking for the genes that cells need to make that receptor. His lab tested many genes, until they found one that could, when expressed in cultured cells, make them sensitive to capsaicin. It was 1997, and this was all much more difficult and tedious back then.
This proteins true and full name is Transient Receptor Potential Cation Channel Subfamily V Member 1, or TRPV1 for short. And it doesnt just respond to spice. It also responds to scalding heat which is why spicy and hot are literally the same sensation, just with different significance. The day that was noticed, someone in that lab surely said, loudly, Holy shit! Probably all of them. Thats how scientists say eureka these days.
Its weird and fun that this one receptor detects two kinds of heat.
And TRPV1 has more tricks up its intricately folded sleeve. Its a gifted protein that also reacts to the active ingredients in mustard and wasabi, to acidic conditions, to inflammatory molecules, and to some cannabinoids, like anandamide .
So what does TRPV1 do? Lots.
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When Heat Can Help With Back Pain
The physiological effects of heat therapy include temporary pain relief, increased blood flow and metabolism, and improved elasticity of connective tissues. Application of heat helps with stretching of soft tissues around the spine and decreases stiffness. Flexibility is an important part of maintaining a healthy back.For that reason, if you find you have back pain after exercise, you might consider heat therapy before exercise and ice afterward. The heat will relieve muscle tightness, increase elasticity, and warm up muscles before use, and the ice afterward will reduce inflammation.
In any case, you should keep in mind that the pain relief from the application of heat or cold is most likely temporary and not intended as a long-term cure. In a 2010 study comparing heat and cold therapy for acute back pain, the researchers concluded that the choice of heat or cold therapy should be based on patient and practitioner preferences and availability.
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Is Heat Good For Back Pain
You may know that there are many physical therapies that can help you with back pain, but you may not know that heat is a good therapy for back pain. Fortunately, our therapy team can help you learn more about the benefits of heat therapy.
Our team at Rehab Access has many physical therapy methods at our disposal, and weve been using these tools proudly for almost 20 years to help patients in Gretna and Belle Chasse, Louisiana. We have two primary goals for your therapy at Rehab Access. First, we want to help you heal as much as possible. Second, we want to help you heal in the shortest possible amount of time. The best way that weve found to consistently meet these goals is to create a personalized therapy plan that uses different therapy methods for every patient. This is why our personalized therapy plan for you may include heat therapy and help you find out why heat is good for back pain.
Bonus Tip: Stretch After Using Heat Therapy To Strengthen Your Lower Back
While heat therapy may help you find quick relief from your sciatica symptoms, it is best used as part of a broader treatment plan that typically includes stretching and other targeted exercises.
Read more about Sciatica Treatment
When you experience pain relief after using heat therapy, try to perform simple lower back stretches. Stretches and targeted exercises can help prevent sciatica from recurring, by relieving the sciatic nerve compression, strengthening your tissues, and improving the flexibility in your lower back.
Use these tips today to see if the benefits of heat treatment help improve your sciatica symptoms. For long-term pain relief, add an exercise program or regular walking to your everyday routine.
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Use A Cold Pack For Acute Injuries & Pain
When Cold is the choice if the injury is aching, even at rest. or if its a brand new injury . Cold is also a good choice if you reinjured something .
What Ice pack, cold cloth, ice bath or ice massage.
Why Cooling agents help narrow the blood vessels which decrease blood flow, reduce swelling to the injured area and can be numbing effect for pain management. IMPORTANT: Always remember to protect your skin with a barrier between you and the cooling agent.
How Cold therapy should be applied every couple of hours for approximately 10-15 minutes at a time.
Heat Reduces Pain Caused By Stiffness
Heat application facilitates stretching of the soft tissues around the spine, including muscles, connective tissue, and adhesions. Consequently, regular heat therapy on the back typically provides:
An overall feeling of comfort sets in and daily activities seem less difficult when lower back stiffness is relieved.
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Does A Heating Pad Actually Help Back Pain
Heating pads may not be the best treatment for your back pain, but they can help alleviate inflammation and pain. This is because heat increases circulation, which means more oxygen and nutrients reach the muscles and joints. This in turn helps to alleviate inflammation and back stiffness. Heating pads also help relieve muscle spasms, which can contribute to pain. However, if your back pain is severe, you should consult your doctor before trying this treatment.
Heat helps to reduce pain because it relaxes the muscles impacted by the pain. It also relieves strain on surrounding tissues. It can reduce the pain levels in many patients, even those who have a chronic condition. However, it is important to remember that heat can also cause side effects and should be used with caution.
Before attempting to use a heating pad to treat your back pain, be sure to follow the manufacturers instructions. For instance, the heating pad should be kept on for a minimum of 10 minutes. Any longer than that can cause burns and extreme inflammation.
Treating Chronic Back Pain
There are two main types of back pain treatments short-term and long-term. Short-term treatments are like a temporary patch, theyll help you manage your pain for a set period of time, but the pain will eventually return. The goal of long-term back pain treatments is to provide lasting relief. Both types of treatments have their purpose.
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Ice In The First 24 To 72 Hours
As a general rule, it is best to apply cold therapy to your lower back in the first 24 to 72 hours following your lower back injury. The application of cold therapy can minimize your inflammation and swellingwhich in turn may reduce your pain. In addition, ice can decrease your tissue damage and numb your sore tissues.
There are numerous options for cold therapy, including a frozen bag of vegetables, frozen gel packs, and a frozen towel. Regardless of which option you choose, make sure to note the following precautions:
- To avoid ice burn, place a cloth between your skin and whichever source of cold you select.
- Apply cold therapy for no more than 20 minutes at a time. You can apply cold therapy 8 to 10 times per 24 hour period.
How Often Should I Use Heat For Back Pain
If you suffer from back pain, alternating between heat and cold therapy can help you alleviate the pain. Both therapies provide a temporary numbing effect and can reduce pain. Heat therapy also encourages blood flow to the affected area, bringing nutrients and oxygen. It can also decrease stiffness. Before starting any therapy, speak with a medical professional.
The best time to use heat or ice for back pain depends on the severity of the pain. Heat is generally better than cold. Depending on the severity, you may need to use ice for several days and then switch to heating pads for an extended period. If you experience sudden pain, ice may not be the best treatment for your pain.
Heat may also be used for chronic back pain and muscle tightness. Heat increases muscle pliability, which reduces pain. However, prolonged exposure to heat increases inflammation and increases pain. You should choose heat that is moist or dry. Heat packs can be worn under your clothes or placed on a heating pad.
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Being Mindful Of Your Movements
How many times has someone told you to lift with your legs, not with your back? Though its almost become cliché, its good advice. Your lower back supports a lot of the function of your body. Even if you lift using correct posture most of the time, a few haphazard hoists can be all it takes to cause long-term pain.
For example, parents with small children will lean over and pick them up out of a crib several times a day. Once or twice might not put much strain on the back, but repeating this movement hundreds or thousands of times over the years can cause serious discomfort. Mind those movements today, and your back will be more forgiving in the future.