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Is Heat Or Ice Better For Back Pain

When Ice Therapy Is Not The Answer

Ice Versus Heat for Back Pain

As with heat therapy, there are times when it can be tempting to slap a bag of ice on any sore or twitching muscle. But doing ice therapy for back spasm and a number of other problems can actually do more harm than good.

You should not ice for:

  • General muscle pains
  • Reducing body fat

Also, this is pretty intuitive, but you should not apply ice if youre already shivering.

Another word to the wiseyou may think you have pulled or strained a muscle in the back or neck, but actual tissue damage is quite rare. The tissue of the back is really thick and it takes a lot of forcelike whiplash from a car accident or lifting something very heavyto actually tear muscles.

So when it comes to answering the questionwhats good for back pain, heat or cold?heat usually wins out.

And if you indeed have a back strain from lifting or something else, you should only apply ice for a few days and then switch to heating pads.

Tips For Using Ice Therapy For Back Pain

Here are some pointers to consider when using ice for back pains such as gel ice packs, ice bags, and other cold compress products:

– Apply to the affected area for 15 – 20 minutes at a time.- Do not apply a cold pack directly on the skin, use a thin cloth or towel- Check the skin every 5 minutes to assess the presence of tissue damage or injury- Wait for 1 hour before repeating cold treatment

Effects of Heat Therapy for Back Pain

Heat therapy or warm compress causes the blood vessels to dilate or widen, increasing the blood flow to the affected site. Increased blood flow on the area will result in higher oxygen levels, as well as nutrients, and antibodies that promote soft-tissue healing.

Effects of Warm Compress

– Increases blood flow to the area- Reduces pain- Promotes soothing, relaxing effect- Eases tight muscles

When applying warm packs, we recommend avoiding prolonged exposure to heat to prevent blisters, pain, and other signs of tissue damage.

How To Loosen Tight Lower Back Muscles Using Heat Therapy

  • In most cases, applying heat to the painful area for up to 20 minutes an hour will help.
  • For more severe injuries, you may need to apply the heating pad to the low-, mid- or upper back for 30 minutes to two hours. In such cases, you should probably buy a reusable heating pad for back pain that wraps around the body.
  • Always place multiple layers of towels between your skin and the heat source to prevent burns.
  • Your heat belt should be at a warm temperature, not a hot one that could decrease comfort/burn skin.
  • You can use a heating pad to help with low-back pain during pregnancy, so long as you do not apply heat directly to the belly.
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    When Shouldnt You Use Heat Or Ice Treatment For Lower Back Pain

    While heat and cold therapy can provide relief for many types of lower back pain, there are certain conditions and situations where you should not use them.

    Heat therapy can aggravate chronic issues such as multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, or rheumatoid arthritis. When heat is applied to these conditions, it can increase inflammation or even cause skin ulceration or burns.

    Heat and cold therapy should also be avoided if the affected area has open wounds or bleeding, blistering, or oozing fluid. Avoid direct contact with the source of heat or cold to protect your skin from damage. A protective barrier such as a cloth or towel between your skin and the source can prevent burns and skin damage.

    Combine Heat And Cold Treatments For Sensitive Back Pain

    When to treat to pain with ice vs heat?

    When you experience a lot of back pain in a short time, try a therapy that involves both heat and coldapplication to your back. Youâll be able to locate the exact spot of the pain and heal it with high and low temperatures.This may work for you, for example, after an injury or trauma. The muscles, nerves, and joints of your back may remain sore and provoke a bothersome feeling for days or a few weeks after the incident. Heat and cold will help.The first thing you should do is apply cold. What this will do with some minutes of use is shrink your blood vessels and cause a numbing effect. Itâll also help reduce swelling, soreness, and inflammation. Your back will start healing.When the inflammation of the affected area is low, switch to heat therapy. Youâll know when to do it at the moment you feel the affected area is numb because of the cold. Apply heat for about 20 minutes and youâll feel your tissues get more flexible, enabling healing.

    With heat, your muscles will also start recovering. Heat will help them get more mobile and also improve the blood circulation in the entire area. Specialists recommend using heat therapy several times a day in these cases, to facilitate healing.

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    Ice Therapy For Back Pains

    Ice for impact injuries

    There are certain types of impact injuries that may benefit from ice therapy. These may include:

    • Sudden or high impact falls
    • High impact injury during sports
    • Sudden and sharp pain in the lower back
    • Sprains in your lower back

    For these types of lower back pain, ice therapy or an ice pack may help to soothe the muscles, reduce any localised inflammation and minimise the pain.

    Pushing yourself too extensive workouts

    Many people engage in rigorous exercise and dont realize that they could be injuring their back. If you havent warmed up or cooled down properly, then you could experience pain in the aftermath of your exercise. Not only immediately after your workout, but up to several days after.

    This is called delayed onset muscle soreness and may lead to inflammation and pain in your body. Ice therapy immediately after intense exercise may aid in inflammation reduction and reduced tissue damage.

    According to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research cold immediately after exercise or 24 hours later was superior to heat in reducing pain.

    After a day or two, you could switch to heat therapy, as discussed in the following paragraph.

    Is Ice Or Heat Better For Back Pain

    Back pain is a prevalent experience for most people at some point in their adult lives. Applying heat or ice is one of the tried-and-true methods of at-home treatment for back pain, but how do you know which method to use and when? Get to know how to use ice or heat for back pain and when to use both.

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    Ice Or Heat For Back Pain Caused By A Herniated Disc

    Again, here, much is to be said about how long you have been in pain. Both ice and heat may help relieve herniated disk pain. VerywellHealth says that both cold therapy and heat therapy may help a great deal because by helping to relax the muscles of the back, ice and heat applications can relieve muscle spasm and provide significant pain relief.

    When To Use Cold Therapy For Back Pain

    Ice Or Heat For Back Pain Relief & Injury?
    • Acute back injury: Ice for back pain can be an effective pain reliever if you are experiencing an acute injury. For example, maybe you strained the muscles of your lower back by lifting something too heavy. The cold from the ice can help to reduce inflammation in the affected area. If you want to address an acute injury, its best to apply cold therapy within two days of the injury.
    • Soreness from exercise: Exercise can help alleviate and even prevent recurrent back pain. Depending on the types of exercise you are doing and the intensity, you might feel sore after a workout. The cold can help ease the strain and tension in your muscles.
    • Sciatica: Sciatica is the name for pain in the sciatic nerve, which begins in the lower back and travels down through the buttocks and the legs. If you are having a sciatica flare-up, immediate application of cold therapy can help to reduce the pain and inflammation. Cold therapy may also help reduce the muscle spasms associated with sciatica.

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    Tips For Applying Ice To A Sore Back

    The shock of the cold is a good thing in terms of how it can provide instant relief. However, you dont want to apply ice directly to the skin since this can be too much of a shock for sensitive skin tissues. Place some type of cloth between your skin and the ice. Also, remember to:

    • Apply the ice for 15 to 20 minutes at a time
    • Move the ice around to different parts of the affected area
    • Limit your use of ice to about 8 to 10 times within a 24-hour period

    What Is Heat Useful For

    Heat is useful for relieving:

    • tendonitis, or chronic irritation and stiffness in the tendons
    • warming up stiff muscles or tissue before activity
    • relieving pain or spasms relating to neck or back injury, including the lower back

    Applied to the neck, heat may reduce the spasms that lead to headaches.

    In 2006, a team of researchers found that patients with lower back pain who exercised and use continuous low-level heat wrap therapy experienced less pain than those who did not use CLHT.

    Previous studies had shown that, for some people, CLHT relieved pain more effectively than oral analgesics, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen.

    However, the effectiveness of heat treatment may depend on the depth of the tissue affected by the pain or injury.

    Some people use heat treatment, often in the form of a hot bath, to stave off DOMS.

    There is some evidence that this might help, but heat that is applied for only 5 to 20 minutes may be less effective, as does not have the chance impact the deeper levels of tissue.

    Some researchers have that moist chemical heat packs, which can be used for 2 hours, may be the best way to prevent DOMS through heat treatment.

    Read Also: How To Heal Your Back Pain

    Should I Use Ice Or Heat To Relieve Lower Back Pain

    So youre experiencing lower back pain? I know its awful. And Id like to help.

    In addition to treating lower back pain for patients with adjustments and other chiropractic treatments and therapies, I make recommendations for all patients for what they can be doing at home, on their own, to relieve lower back pain. And spending time icing or heating the are is often recommended.

    Most of my patients tend to think of ice as the go to treatment for lower back pain. While there are certain instances where ice is preferred, most often, heat is actually better at relieving lower back pain.

    < strong> < span style=”font-size: 22px font-weight: 800 text-transform: uppercase “> The question is not so much as which to use, ice or heat? But rather, when to use ice or heat to treat lower back pain.< /span> < /strong>

    When to use ice to treat lower back pain

    In short, ice is for injuries

    Ice is ideal for calming down damaged tissues that are inflamed, red, hot and swollen. Even though the inflammatory process is a healthy, normal, natural process, it also happens to be incredibly painful. Icing helps to control the pain of inflammation.

    If you answer yes to any of these questions, you are probably going to experience some back pain relief by icing the area.

    In these instances, ice or cold will do well to treat lower back pain.

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    Heals Your Back After Walking Long Distances

    Back Pain Relieving Ice to Heat Patches, 4 Count By Rub

    If youâre a patient with back injury issues, you can get some pain by walking long distances. Ice will help you. Apply it after the walk: itâll help to heal you.Either if you walk a lot in a workout or just because it is part of a routine, the pain provoked by the activity will ease off with cold therapy.

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    Start With Cold Therapy For Acute Back Pain

    If you’ve had your back pain for four weeks or less, using cold therapy initially is likely your best bet. By bringing the temperature down, you can constrict blood vessels and simultaneously minimize swelling and information. You’ll be left with a numbing effect that hopefully offers relief.

    Once you’ve noticed an improvement in your inflammation, transition to heat therapy. The heat can help with flexibility, muscle movement, and overall functioning. It will deliver nutrients to the injured tissues and allow you to feel better.

    Is It Ok To Use A Heating Pad For Lower Back Pain

    Heat therapy is an effective remedy for back pain because it boosts circulation, which then allows nutrients and oxygen to travel to joints and muscles. The circulation helps repair damaged muscles and relieve inflammation. Its best to use heat therapy in a well-ventilated area, such as a hot tub or sauna.

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    When To Use Caution

    Paraffin wax treatments supply moist heat but overheating can cause burns.

    Use caution on areas with decreased sensation if you have neuropathy or Raynauds syndrome. Extreme temperatures can damage skin.

    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.

    How To Use Heat Or Cold Therapy

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

    While heat and cold therapy are beneficial for relieving lower back pain, using the right treatment for your condition at the right time can maximize the benefits.

    Heat therapy, for example, is best at reducing muscle pain and stiffness, while cold therapy is typically used to reduce inflammation and swelling. Heres how to use either hot or cold therapy for your lower back issues.

    Cold therapy

    Cold therapy is most effective for pain that comes on suddenly, such as from an accident or direct injury. By lowering your body temperature in the affected area, cold therapy causes your blood vessels to constrict, reducing swelling and inflammation. Additionally, it can also numb the area to reduce your discomfort.

    Cold therapy is simple to use and doesnt require any special equipment. Ice in a plastic bag, a bag of frozen vegetables, or even a damp towel can do the job.

    To prevent skin or tissue damage from the cold, make sure your homemade ice pack is wrapped up in cloth. Apply it for no more than 15 minutes or less if it becomes painful. Prolonged exposure to cold packs can lead to permanent tissue damage.

    Heat therapy

    Heat therapy provides relief by improving circulation and blood flow to the treated area. Even a slight increase in body temperature can provide comfort by soothing muscles and helping damaged tissues heal.

    Heat and cold therapy combined

    Here are a few simple ways to add heat and cold therapy to your daily routine:

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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.


    Gout flare-ups


    Muscle strains and sprains



    Heat Therapy For Back Pain

    Heat therapy helps to promote blood circulation and tissue healing, as well as working to activate and keep muscles moving. After a day or two of using an ice pack, you could switch to use a heat pack.

    Also, heat packs may help you first thing in the morning. If you wake up with a stiff or achy back, a heat pack may help warm up your mobiles and increase mobility.

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    Accelerates Your Backs Recovery After A Hard Workout

    A workout can be intense, particularly to your back. If youâre a back pain patient, the suggestion from doctors is to use cold therapy right after exercise. The first effect of it will be relaxing your muscles and tissues and preventing inflammation.When your back muscles get inflamed during or after a workout, you must use ice after the training. This not only will ease up the inflammation, but itâll help you recover faster for the next workout.After the cold treatment, doctors recommend waiting 24 hours and then applying heat therapy to your back. This will encourage your tissues to heal.

    Should You Use Heat Or Ice For A Stiff Neck

    Should you use heat or ice for back pain?

    Applying both heat and ice to your neck can help ease pain in the area. But which should you choose?

    Ice therapy used for too long can result in damage. If you have diabetes, or another condition that reduces your sensitivity you should avoid using ice therapy. Also, if you have poor circulation, ice therapy should not be used. Individuals with cardiovascular or heart disease should consult with their doctor before using ice therapy.

    Heat therapy can be used for longer periods of time but there are still risks to watch out for. Certain conditions may make you more prone to burns or complications from the heat. If you have diabetes, multiple sclerosis, dermatitis or a vascular disease, you should not use heat therapy. Individuals with heart disease or who are pregnant should consult with their doctor before using heat therapy.

    In general, cold therapy is usually appropriate when you have acute pain and inflammation in an area. The cold can help reduce the swelling which may be contributing to the pain.

    Heat therapy, on the other hand, is often helpful when you have stiff joints. This makes it a good choice for individuals with a stiff neck.

    Have you tried heat or cold therapy? Which do you prefer? Leave a comment on our post on .

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