Q: Which Will Work Better For My Painful Arthritic Joints Heat Or Cold
A: Applying heat or cold to a painful area is a simple, inexpensive method for relieving pain. Cold reduces swelling and numbs the area. Heat loosens up muscles, increases flexibility and increases circulation. For an acute injury, such as a pulled muscle or injured tendon, the usual recommendation is to start by applying ice to reduce inflammation and dull pain. Once inflammation has gone down, heat can be used to ease stiffness.
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For a chronic pain condition, such as osteoarthritis, heat seems to work best. However, some people find that cold also helps to dull the pain.
So whats the answer? Try them both and use whichever works best for you.
Exercise is an important part of treatment for osteoarthritis. Heat and cold can also be used to make exercising a little easier. Try using heat before exercise to loosen up muscles and cold afterwards to minimize any achiness.
For heat, soak in a warm bath, hot tub or whirlpool for about 20 minutes. Or take a warm shower. Dress warmly afterwards to prolong the benefit. A heating pad is another good way to warm up an area. You can also buy moist heat pads. Or, heat a damp washcloth in the microwave for about 20 seconds. Test it to make sure its not too hot. Wrap it in a dry towel and apply it to the painful area.
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.
Cold Therapy Vs Heat Therapy For Chronic Lower Back Pain
Unlike acute lower back pain, it is a bit more difficult to nail down when cold vs heat is best for chronic low back pain.
Recommendations should be determined from your Doctor based on his/her assessment of your particular source of chronic pain and treatment options.
Low-level continuous heat is often recommended for chronic back pain relief.
Heat before exercise can help warm-up the muscles and lessen pain during your back exercises.
Cold therapy is also very helpful after exercise to reduce muscle soreness.
How Do You Cure Back Spasms
The most common treatment for a lower back muscle spasm is gentle movement, heating pads applied to the area, and over-the-counter pain relievers, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , which help to reduce swelling and inflammation. Aspirin and ibuprofen are usually effective at easing the pain of muscle spasms.
Heat Therapy Stimulates Blood Flow
Unlike cold therapy, heat therapy speeds up the blood flow and can be a gentle suggestion to your body to begin the healing process. You might find that heat therapy helps sooth sore muscles and relax muscle spasms especially with an older injury.
Using heat therapy reduces the pain by not only relaxing your muscles, but also by increasing the flow of lactic acid. This fluid often slows down in areas with decreased blood flow, but its removal is necessary for improving range of motion and decreasing pain. Paired with hydration, heat therapy can help you heal from pain from an ongoing injury or to relax sore muscles and stiffness from the body.
If the injury causing pain is severe, be sure to talk to your orthopaedic specialist to ensure that a more active approach to your pain management isnt necessary.
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How Does Heat Therapy Work
When placing a heated object on the skin, this starts a process called vasodialation, which enlarges the blood vessels and relaxes the muscles. Healing nutrients and oxygen rush to the affected area to help it heal. This improved blood flow also helps cellular waste exit the area more efficiently, enabling your muscles to do likewise.
Heat therapy can be administered through many forms, such as hot water packs, hot stone, or warm towels. Soaking in hot baths is another popular form of heat therapy that is regularly used by back pain sufferers and anyone looking for relaxation.
Is Heat Or Cold Better For Low Back Pain
Back pain can be crippling especially when your day-to-day life includes motion. If you handle back pain, right here are some remarkable ideas that can assist alleviate your misery.Copulate a pillow under your knees Is Heat Or Cold Better For Low Back Pain
When you have back pain, sleeping can be tough. It can be a vicious circle because when you do not get enough sleep, your back pain may really feel worse. A poor rest position can likewise exacerbate back pain. Attempt pushing your side. Location a cushion between your knees to keep your spinal column in a neutral placement as well as relieve stress on your back. If you need to sleep on your back, slide a cushion under your knees. Make sure to sleep on a conveniently solid mattress.
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Ice Therapy: A Few Scenarios When Its Good For Back Pain
Ice therapy, also known as cryotherapy, is generally meant for fresh injuries. The cold of an ice pack calms inflamed, hot, red or swollen tissue.
While this is your bodys natural reaction to an injury and a component of the healing process, it can be quite painful and last longer than it needs to.
Applying a cold gel pack to your freshly injured back or some other area of the body can dull pain and bring down swelling.
An Ice Bag Or Very Cold Pack May Numb The Pain In Your Back But Does This Also Promote Healing
Heat wont numb the pain, but wont it increase blood flow to your hurting muscles?
So the big question is: Heat or cold for back pain treatment?
Keep in mind that in most cases, back pain will resolve all by itself, says Kaixuan Liu, MD, PhD, nationally distinguished leader in endoscopic spine surgery and chief surgeon at Atlantic Spinal Care in Edison, N.J.
This good fortune may occur only two weeks after the initial onset of pain. Both cold and heat can be applied but not in a random way.
To determine whether you should use heat or cold to treat low back pain, Dr. Liu says its important to learn whats causing the situation.
Sudden-onset of pain in the lower back can be caused by improperly lifting something heavy or by some kind of forceful trauma.
With a mechanical injury, you might feel anything from dull aching to a shooting or stabbing pain, says Dr. Liu.
You might also experience stiffness or loss of flexibility that prevents you from standing or sitting normally. Discomfort thats acute is short-lived, but it may recur as well.
If the issue goes on for over 90 days, this is then chronic low back pain. It can be caused by improper lifting but also degenerative ailments.
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Heat Or Cold: Which One Is Better For Back Pain
Back pain is something that we would suffer from at one point or another in our lives. It can happen at absolutely any age but tends to become more common as we get older. While over-the-counter oral medications can help to a certain extent, they arent good in the long term, so people tend to turn to heat or ice for back pain.
However, you should not be using the wrong kind of compress as that will leave you with the risk of worsening your back pain. As such, we got in touch with some of the top orthopedic doctors in the state to know which kind of compress you should be using when you suffer from back pain.
Relax And Stay Positive
Trying to relax is a crucial part of easing the pain as muscle tension caused by worrying about your condition may make things worse.
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Although it can be difficult, it helps to stay positive and recognise that your pain should get better. People who manage to stay positive despite their pain tend to recover quicker.
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When To See A Doctor
If your back pain persists, gets worse, or starts to get in the way of everyday activities, see a doctor to find out what is going on, Dr. Metzl says. Your doctor can run tests to find the cause of your back pain and suggest treatments in addition to heat and ice, including prescription or over-the-counter medications, steroid injections, or physical therapy.
Ice and heat arent usually meant to be stand-alone remedies for lower back pain, adds physical therapist Jake Magel, PhD, a research assistant professor at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Other treatments may be needed to relieve your pain and prevent it from coming back. Generally, its an active approach with the goal of getting you back to your regular activities as soon as possible, he says.
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
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
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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.
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.
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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How To Apply Cold Therapy
Cold treatments are most effective when applied to the back of the pelvis where your sciatic nerve is located. Cold therapy can be practiced using ice packs, frozen gel packs, or even frozen vegetable bags. These treatments should be used three times a day for 15 to 20 minutes.
Patients with wide areas of pain, such as the back, find ice massage to be especially beneficial. Ice massage can be done at home. Simply freeze water in a paper cup, then cut off the top half of the cup to uncover the ice. Next, have a partner rub the ice in circular motions on painful areas for a few minutes or until it becomes numb.
After a few days, a majority of your pain and inflammation should subside and you can begin heat treatment.
Use Low Heat Therapy For Chronic Back Pain
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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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!
Medicine From The Store Is Heat Or Cold Better For Lower Back Pain
There are two sort of non-prescription pain relievers that frequently help with back pain: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and also acetaminophen. Both have some negative effects, and also some people might not have the ability to take them. Talk to your doctor prior to taking painkiller And dont anticipate drug alone to solve your discomfort issue. Researches reveal youll possibly require more than one type of therapy.
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When Not To Use Heat Therapy
In some cases, heat therapy is not the best option. Muscle strain usually occurs when sensitive muscle tissue tears, so internal bleeding or inflammation is a real possibility with a neck injury. When swelling or pain accompanies a neck injury, ice treatments may prove helpful. Directly after the damage occurs, however, it is still important to seek medical advice first.
When there is a possibility, you could be at risk of internal bleeding or swelling. In this instance, heat treatments can make the problem worse, so avoid at all costs . At least, wait until an MD or Physical Therapist has examined you. Also, prolonged neck injuries or neck injuries that feel swollen, badly strained, or painful may involve internal bleeding. It is always best to check with a medical professional before using heat treatments at home.
If you have already put pain-relieving gel or cream on the problem area, do not apply heat treatment over the top. Pain relief gels like Voltarol or Biofreeze ease soreness by numbing the discomfort. You wont be able to feel how hot your heat treatment is until it is too late. If in doubt, always consult your doctor or physical therapist first before applying any form of heat or cold therapy.
Yet, as an experienced PT, I know how varied the effects can be due to how you use heat therapy.
Guidelines For Using Heat Or Ice
|Arthritis Moist heat eases stiff joints relaxes muscles
|Gout Ice calms flare-ups numbs pain
|Headache Ice numbs throbbing pain moist heat relaxes neck spasms
|Strains Ice eases inflammation , numbs pain
|Sprains Ice eases inflammation numbs pain Heat relieves stiffness after inflammation resolves
|Tendinitis Ice eases inflammation numbs pain
|Low back pain Heat and ice alternately relaxes muscles and decreases
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