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Is Heat Or Cold Better For Back Pain

Diagnosis And Treatment Of Back Pain

Ice (Cold Pack) OR Heat? Best Back Fix For Your LOWER BACK PAIN

Apart from physical examination, imaging is frequently used to determine the cause of back pain.

Some of the most commonly used methods to diagnose conditions leading to back pain are X-ray imaging, MRI scan, blood tests, bone scans, and nerve studies. Such tests may help exclude more severe causes of back pain.

Most common treatment of back pain is the use of over-the-counter pain medications. However, in severe cases, one may need prescription drugs like opiates, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and even injectables.

Fortunately, most people will make a complete recovery after an episode of back pain.

  • – 60% make a full recovery in 3 weeks

  • – 90% make take about 8 weeks to recover

  • – 95% will recover within 12 weeks

  • – Merely less than 1% will take longer as back pain in those cases occur due to more severe reasons

Heat Or Ice For Upper Back Pain

Both ice and heat can help upper back pain, but, like lower back pain, which to use depends on the timing and probably causes of your pain. Healthline suggests that you, use a cold pack and anti-inflammatory pain relief for the first three days after the pain starts. After that, alternate applying heat and cold to your injury.

When To Use Heat Vs When To Use Ice For Lower Back Pain

Both heat and cold therapy are beneficial and can provide effective relief from lower back pain. If you are like many people, though, you might not know when to use heat vs. when to use ice for lower back pain to achieve the maximum benefit. If you are suffering from lower back pain, read on to discover whether you should be using heat or ice.

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Is Heat Or Cold Therapy Better For Sciatica Pain

Dr. Bhavik Sheth, PT, DPT, CSCS, SFMA

Dr. Bhavik Sheth, PT, DPT, CSCS, SFMA is a physical therapist and the co-founder of the Elite Movement Initiative, a physical therapy group. He earned his D…

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Sciatica is a unique type of nerve pain that begins in the lower back and extends through the lower extremities.

People with sciatica often experience sharp low back, hip, and leg pain as well as burning sensations, tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness. This level of discomfort is alarming and calls for the assistance of an ice pack or warm towel, but which is actually fit to alleviate your pain?

In this article, we will discuss whether heat therapy, cold therapy, or a combination of both is best for sciatica.

Use Caution If Youre Pregnant

Waist Heating Pad Belt Lower Back Heat Wrap Hot and Cold Therapy with 3 ...

If youre pregnant and have back pain, its safe to use a heating pad. You should avoid prolonged exposure since overheating can be dangerous to a fetus. It can lead to neural tube defects or other complications.

This is more probable in a hot tub or sauna, but err on the side of caution. Use a heating pad on the lowest setting while pregnant, and only for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Since heating pads decrease pain signals and increase circulation, use the pad soon after developing painful flares or stiffness to speed the healing process.

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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:

When To Use Both Heat & Ice Called: Contrast Therapy

You can use ice and heat separately, or in some cases, together, which is known as contrast therapy. The key to contrast therapy is to start with heat and finish with ice. This has to do with the dilation and constriction of blood flow to the injured area.

You want to start with dilating the blood vessels with heat, followed by constriction of blood vessels with the ice. This works to create a pumping effect. which promotes healing of the area. Contrast therapy is generally used after the first 72 hours, before you start to apply heat on its own.

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Cold/heat Therapy Best Practices

Cold and heat therapy can be effective, but only if you use it properly. How you use it will depend on the type of back pain that youre experiencing.

If you have acute pain, then youll use both heat and cold therapy. You should begin with cold therapy, which youll place on the affected area for 15 minutes. After that time is up, you should switch to heat therapy.

If your back pain is chronic , then youll want to use heat therapy only. To get the best results, your pack should be warm and placed for a longer period of time on your back.

If you find that you have back pain after youve engaged in exercise, then be sure to have an ice pack at home. If you place the ice on your back immediately after exercise, youll find that your symptoms are much improved.

Best Practices: How To Ice Your Back

Ice Or Heat For Back Pain Relief & Injury?
  • 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.
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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.

    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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    Ice Vs Heat For Lower Back Pain

    For pain in your lower back, consider whether the pain may be caused by an injury, such as a pulled or strained muscle, or if it is chronic. For chronic pain, heat therapy might be best. Dry heat can be applied through a heating pad and moist heat by means of a warm bath or shower. Heat will relax those muscles.

    But if your pain is caused by an injury, ice is the better option. In fact, heat may make your back pain worse.

    Does Alternating Heat And Cold Therapy Help

    Sure Thermal Lower Back Pain Relieve Hot/Cold Microwaveable Heat Pack ...

    Many people find it beneficial to alternate between heat and cold therapy. You can switch between hot and cold therapies throughout the day. Usually, its best to wait at around 20 minutes between sessions, though you can also alternate between hot and cold water in the shower. Always start and finish with a cold treatment.

    Talk with your doctor before alternating between full-body treatments such as an ice bath and a sauna or hot tub.

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    Types Of Heat Therapy For Arthritis

    There are several types of heat therapy, called thermotherapy, options for arthritis. Heat therapy improves circulation and causes your blood vessels to expand. This helps your body to deliver more blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the affected area, which may reduce inflammation, stiffness, and pain. Heat therapy may also improve mobility, which makes it easier to relax, loosen up, and move.

    If a heat therapy session causes swelling, redness, or inflammation avoid further treatments until your symptoms subside. Avoid using heat therapy during a flare-up or the acute stage of an injury. Talk with a healthcare professional before using heat treatments if you have heart disease or high blood pressure.

    Do not use heat therapy if you have any of the following conditions:

    • multiple sclerosis

    Is Heat Or Cold Therapy Effective For Chronic Back Pain

    For chronic back pain due to irritation of nerves in the spine or where the nerve exits the spine, whether the application of heat or cold therapy will provide pain relief, depends on what is causing the nerve irritation.

    If the pain is caused by an injury to muscles or tendons, cold therapy can be effective, along with rest and avoidance of the positions or activity that caused the muscle inflammation in the first place. In these instances cold can be enough to allow the muscle to return to a normal state and produce long-term relief.

    If it is caused by a herniated or bulging disc, a narrowing of the canal in the vertebra, bone spurs, or any of several other causes of nerve irritation and back pain, heat or cold therapy will only have limited benefit in terms of pain relief.

    At Healthcare Associates the emphasis is on providing a personalized approach to each patients needs. We work with you to determine the underlying cause of your back pain and find the optimal treatment for you. Call our Appointment Line at 258-7499 or contact us by email.

    Ladeira DE, Cheng MS, et al. Physical therapists treatment choices for non-specific low back pain in Florida: an electronic survey. J Man Manip Ther. 2015 May 23: 109118. Table 2. doi: 10.1179/2042618613Y.0000000065

    Nadler SF, Weingand K, Kruse RJ. The physiologic basis and clinical applications of cryotherapy and thermotherapy for the pain practitioner. Pain Physician. 2004 Jul 7:395-9.

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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.

    Alternative Treatments For Back Pain Relief

    Ice or Heat: Which is better for low back pain?

    If you have been trying a range of treatments for a number of months and the pain persists, then your last resort is most likely surgery. Traditional surgery such as decompression and fusion can limit mobility in the back, which is why many doctors are now recommending a TOPS System as one of the most effective back pain and spinal stenosis treatments.

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    Hot Or Cold 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.

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    Is Ibuprofen 800 Mg Good For Back Pain

    Im a big fan of ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for treating back pain. These medications work by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins that promote inflammation and pain.

    In general, I recommend taking 400 to 600 mg of ibuprofen every six hours, so long as you dont have any contraindications or allergies to this medication.

    Ibuprofen is one of the most commonly used NSAIDs and is available over the counter in 200-mg tablets or 400-mg capsules. If you have an injury that hurts your back, I suggest using ibuprofen 800 mg three times a day until you start feeling better.

    Aspirin and ibuprofen are both nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that are commonly used to treat back pain. They work by blocking the production of prostaglandins, chemicals in your body that cause inflammation, fever and pain.

    Ibuprofen is an NSAID drug in the same class as aspirin and naproxen. Its available over-the-counter in tablets or capsules at strengths ranging from 200 to 800 milligrams . Its also available in liquid form. Ibuprofen can be taken with or without food.

    Ibuprofen is not recommended for children under age 12 because it has been associated with Reye syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening illness.

    Ibuprofen has been found to help temporarily relieve minor aches and pains due to:


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    When To Chill And When To Heat

    Many of these conditions are treatable with medication as prescribed by your health care provider. And, for other situations, over-the-counter pain relievers may be enough to help. But you still may need further relief so here are a few tips to keep in mind when deciding between ice or heat for aching muscles and joints.

    Reminder: if any of these conditions are new or dont resolve quickly, be sure to contact your health care provider for more treatment options.

    Acute injuries

    First of all, do not use heat on acute injuries because that extra heat can increase inflammation and delay proper healing.

    When dealing with injuries, its best to predominantly choose ice if the injury is acute . The chill constricts blood vessels which numbs pain, relieves inflammation and limits bruising.

    If youre sensitive to cold then ice may initially seem uncomfortable or even painful to apply. Heat can feel warm, cozy and be tempting to toss on an injury, says primary care sports medicine physician Anne Rex, DO. But dont be fooled! Ice wins to shut down swelling, inflammation and pain early on where heat may actually make an injury worse.

    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.


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    Use Low Heat Therapy For Chronic Back Pain

    Back Pain Kit with Moist Heat and Cold Therapy BTF00650

    If your lower back pain has been on-going for more than four weeks, low level, continuous heat therapy may be used to reduce discomfort. A warm blanket or adhesive heat patches can be used to provide continuous heat and should help to stimulate healing when used regularly.

    You could also try a heat lamp or infrared light therapy .

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    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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