Cold Therapy For Back Pain
Cold therapy reduces blood flow and constricts blood vessels , which helps to reduce swelling and numb the pain. Its best for treating acute pain, such as that caused by injuries, and it should be applied in the first stages of healing .
- Best for acute pain from injuries
- Works for sharp, sudden pain
- Helps reduce swelling and numb pain
- Ideal for the first few days after injury
- Can be used alongside heat therapy for chronic pain
Cold therapy is used in all sorts of healing procedures. It is a component of the RICE method of pain management and is used to treat acute conditions, such as a muscle sprain or strain in the low back. Cold therapy could be as simple as placing a bag of frozen vegetables on a twisted ankle or as complex as taking a dip in a whole-body cryotherapy chamber at a spa.
At its core, cold therapy works by reducing swelling, especially around the joints and tendons. At the same time, it cools the nerves and creates a numbing sensation to help dull the pain. The back is one of the most difficult parts of the body in which to identify swelling. Unlike the ankle or wrist, the inflammation usually stays contained beneath the skin. However, if you believe that your back pain was caused by an injury, such as a pulled muscle, it is probably swelling beneath the surface and could most likely benefit from an ice compress.
Contrast Therapy: Using Both Cold And Heat Therapy For Back Pain
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.
Range Of Lower Back Problems That Can Benefit From Heat And Cold Therapy
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
- 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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Type Of Cold Therapy Packs
Reusable cold therapy packs are typically filled with gel or clay, while disposables contain a combination of water and cooling agents.
Regular cold therapy packs: The average reusable cold therapy pack is filled with gel or clay and serves a singular purpose: to provide cooling, inflammation-fighting relief.
Heat and cold therapy packs: Hands down the most versatile, heat and cold therapy packs are constructed of materials that can be heated or frozen. This conveniently allows you to alternate between heat and cold therapy using a single product.
Disposable cold therapy packs: These handy packs are primarily designed for emergencies or use on the go and require no freezing. Most consist of two layers: the outer layer is filled with water while the inner layer contains cooling agents. In the event of an injury, a shake or squeeze of the pack activates the cooling agent.
Understanding Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain can have a major impact on your day-to-day lifestyle, particularly if youre in extreme discomfort. While heat and ice therapy are great ways to manage your symptoms, its important to understand the cause of your pain.
Furthermore, heat and ice therapy can be used in conjunction with other forms of treatment. Here at My Back Relief Clinic, we routinely advise patients to use heat therapy, ice treatments or a combination of the two in between sessions with a chiropractor.
This comprehensive approach to lower back pain ensures your discomfort can be relieved more quickly and more effectively.
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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.
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When To Avoid Heat Therapy
It is important to note that heat therapy should not even be considered as an option under certain circumstances. For instance, if your back is bruised or swollen, if you have an open wound, and if you suffer from dermatitis or deep vein thrombosis. Additionally, if you suffer from hypertension or heart diseases, it is best that you first consult with your doctor before you use heat therapy.
What’s Better To Treat Your Torn Rotator Cuff: Ice Or Heat
Ice and heat are the best treatment combination for you if:
- You’re looking to heal your rotator cuff / shoulder bursitis / biceps tendonitis / impingement naturally and want to boost the natural power of pain relief and healing in your body. Perhaps you want to get rid of shoulder pain or bone spur pain and inflammation
- You don’t want to repeatedly pay the cost of injections, medications, hospital visits. Perhaps you want to try and avoid surgery – an option you want to avoid if at all possible.
- You want to reduce the risk of worsening your injury.
- You want to help prevent any future re-injury, pain, tear or swelling in your shoulder.
- You want to control your own treatment and recovery at home, on your own time.
- You’re looking for a tried, tested, and true method of healing that has worked for countless other people that have suffered from rotator cuff pain.
Combining cold and warmth is a simple yet effective way to get immediate pain relief and promote long-term healing. In your lifetime you’ve probably had your mom, family doctor, nurse, surgeon or physical therapist tell you to use ice right after you’re injured and something warm from time to time once the swelling’s gone down. It’s a simple yet very effective way to relieve pain and promote healing in your shoulder.
A rotator cuff tear can happen to anyone, and right now there are thousands of doctors and PT clinics dealing with patients that require a solution to their shoulder injury fast and heal it .
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Heat Or Ice For Lower Back Pain Which Is Best
If youve got lower back pain, friends and family have probably given you plenty of advice. Some people will tell you to ice it, while others will say to apply heat. The answer to the question of which is best often depends on the type of pain you are experiencing and who you ask.
A survey of physical therapists in 2015 found that among 327 physical therapists participating in the study, the percentage of those using heat or ice for pain ranged from 47.7 percent to 66.8 percent. The range varied, depending on whether the PTs were treating the patients musculoskeletal pain in an inpatient or outpatient setting. Even so, there is only limited research evaluating the effectiveness of these treatments.
The therapists were also asked about which treatment to recommend for acute back pain that occurs after an injury, muscle strain, or overexertion. While there is no consensus, in general, experts say to apply cold therapy in the first day or so after the injury. After the swelling and inflammation have diminished, switching to heat therapy may be helpful.
Use Ice Therapy After Exercise
When you experiment with new exercise regimes or increase your training goals, you probably notice an increase in muscle soreness. Applying an ice pack to the affected area immediately after exercising helps to minimise inflammation and should, therefore, reduce any pain or discomfort. In most cases, its advisable to use ice therapy for a period of 24 hours after exercising. After this, switching to heat therapy can help to speed up the healing process.
Remember excess temperatures can damage the skin. Wrapping ice and heat packs before applying and only using them for 15-20 minutes at a time helps to minimise the risk of skin damage.
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How Ice Works To Relieve Pain And Reduce Inflammation
Ice narrows the blood vessel lumen , which limits blood flow to your soft tissues.
The control of blood flow helps in pain control by reducing the flow of irritating chemicals that can flood the injury site. While these chemicals are a natural and useful response to inflammation, keeping them in check helps control pain.
Reduced blood flow also helps control excessive swelling.
Cold Therapy Vs Heat Therapy
Both cold and heat therapy can be used to manage pain caused by injuries or chronic inflammatory conditions. However, each has its own distinctive set of benefits, and getting the timing just right is key to achieving optimal results. Let’s take a closer look at the difference between heat and cold therapy to find out how each can help at different stages of recovery.
Cold therapy: Also known as cryotherapy, cold therapy slows blood flow to the injured site and can significantly decrease swelling. Cold therapy also acts as an excellent, albeit temporary, local anesthetic. Cold therapy is most effective when applied within 48 hours of sustaining an injury.
Heat therapy: On the opposite end of the spectrum is heat therapy. Rather than slowing blood flow, heat therapy boosts circulation and relaxes stiff muscles. Heat therapy is best used to ease pain and promote healing once any inflammation has already been treated with cold therapy. Heat therapy is also ideal for chronic pain caused by old injuries or arthritis.
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How Do You Use Ice / Cold As Pain Relief For Your Rotator Cuff Injury
COLD is used to treat injuries or conditions that are red, hot, inflamed, swollen and suffering from tissue damage . Cold is a natural / organic pain reliever that numbs pain right at the source of your injury. While doing this, the cold also stops cellular break-down and reduces the amount of scar tissue forming .
When cold is applied to a rotator cuff injury, all of the soft tissue in the shoulder will squeeze on the veins to slow down your blood flow. This in turn clamps down on the amount of fluid leaking into your injured tissue, decreasing your swelling. This is why cold is used immediately to treat newer shoulder injuries or re-injuries. The cold slows down your body to stop the amount of damage happening to your tissue and decrease your swelling. This cold also has a nice side benefit of numbing the nerves in and around your rotator cuff thereby decreasing your pain.
In the medical world this is something called ‘Vasoconstriction’.
Cold can Make Your Rotator Cuff Injury Worse – How?
Applying cold can restrict blood flow and stiffen / tighten soft tissue. Cold is NOT a good treatment method for your rotator cuff tear when the tissue is already tight and constricted, because the cold will just stiffen the tissue further. Instead use a treatment that will increase blood flow, like the Shoulder TShellz Wrap® , to relieve any spasms in your rotator cuff and relax / elongate your tissue making it much more pliable.
When To Call Your Doctor
With these treatments, your pain should go away on its own. Call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms, because they could be signs of a bigger problem:
- The pain lasts for more than 3 days.
- It moves from your back to other parts of your body.
- You also have fever or loss of bladder or bowel control.
American Chiropractic Association: âBack Pain Facts and Statistics.â
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: âWhat Is Back Pain?â
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: âLow Back Pain.â
Harvard Medical School: âBed Rest for Back Pain? A Little Bit Will Do You.â
National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke: âLow Back Pain Fact Sheet.â
Johns Hopkins Medicine: âCryotherapy for Pain Management.â
University of Michigan Health System: âLow Back Pain.â
Cochrane Library: âMotor Control Exercise for Chronic Non-specific Low Back Pain.â
Annals of Internal Medicine: âA comparison of the effects of 2 types of massage and usual care on chronic low back pain: a randomized, controlled trial.â
U.S. National Library of Medicine: âBack Pain.â
American Association of Neurological Surgeons: âLow Back Strain and Sprain,â âSpinal Infections,â âSpinal Tumors.â
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When To Use Caution
Paraffin wax treatments supply moist heat but overheating can cause burns.
Wonder if its safe to use ice when youre burning up with fever? Theres nothing wrong with using cold to bring down a fever, says Dr. Kriegler.
Do Not Ice Lower Back Or Neck Pain
Wait! What? You shouldnt ice low back pain? The truth is, treating low back pain with ice can make the pain worse. Icing these areas can actually cause the body to feel threatened. In many cases, you will immediately notice that the muscle spasm increases the second you place ice on the injured area. In other cases, you might notice a very unpleasant sensation when the ice is applied.
After a few minutes go by, you will notice that your pain has increased, and the area becomes extremely stiff and difficult to move. While it does not do any permanent damage, it is not a very pleasant experience and you most likely will not try it again.
According to scientific studies, the reason the lower back and neck react in this manner is because they are full of muscular trigger points, or muscle knots. These are common muscle dysfunctions found in the back because this area carries so much of the human weight and is responsible for so many movement functions.
If you consider how your body is structured, you will see how much your spine really does, it protects the spinal cord, it carries all of the nerves to various exit points throughout your body, and if compromised, it can cause you to become paralyzed. That is pretty hard work for something that looks like a rippled stick put together with a lot of puzzle pieces. No wonder the brain is so over protective!
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What To Use And How To Apply Ice Or Heat:
In this section, I want to review the various way you can apply ice or heat and the devices that are available today.
Lets start with ice. There are chemical ice packs, which I personally would not recommend because they can get too cold and burn the tissue. There is the good old bag of frozen vegetablesnot great, plus it is a bit of a waste. There are pain creams that use Menthol to give a cold sensation to the skin and work great. They can be applied ASAP.
The best application of ice I have found is to use a Zip-loc bag with crushed ice in a bit of water, Remove all of the air from the bag and then zip it closed. It is best to also put a wet paper towel on your skin over the affected area, then apply the ice bag.
To further improve the effectiveness of ice, first rest the area, then use a wrap over the ice pack to improve the contact with the skin and to compress the area to minimize the swelling. If the area can be elevated, please try to elevate it to allow the area to drain at the same time.
Now lets talk heat, my favorite form of therapy. There are heating lamps, heating pads, hot tubs, hot showers, pain creams with cayenne pepper and even ultrasound, which is a form of heat.
I know what you are going to ask which works the best. Personally, I love the hot tub. Unfortunately I do not own one and going to a community hot tub is like taking a dip in a cesspool .