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What Is Best For Back Pain Ice Or Heat

When To Use Ice For Back Pain

Ice Or Heat For Back Pain Relief & Injury?

Youll want to apply ice during the acute phase, or inflammatory phase, of a back injury . Generally speaking, the inflammatory phase is the first 72 hours following an injury.

If you suffer an acute injury, your body responds in the following ways: Increased inflammation. Increased blood flow to the area. Increased swelling.

Guidelines for applying ice therapy: 20 minutes at a time, followed by a 40 to 60 minute break.

* Note: If you ice for longer period of time, youll actually have a negative response. Your body does the opposite of what youre trying to do. This means that instead of constricting blood flow to decrease inflammation to the area, your body will dilate blood vessels, which will increase blood flow to the area, thereby increasing inflammation and pain.

During the first 72 hours, you can use ice multiple times during the day .

Never apply ice directly to skin always use a barrier between your skin and ice such as a thin towel or shirt to prevent frostbite.

Ways to apply ice therapy to an injured area at home include: Ice packs.

Sensations you will feel from icing include: Cold Burning Aching Numbing .

Ice Or Heat For Back Pain It Depends

Determining whether to use ice or heat for back pain is all about the type of pain you are experiencing.

Cryotherapy, also called ice or cold therapy, can be as sophisticated as a special ice pack or as simple as a frozen water bottle. Even placing a cool cloth on the painful area functions as a type of cold therapy.

Heat therapy, technically referred to thermotherapy, uses tools like hot baths, electric heating pads, or pads that can be warmed in a microwave to apply heat to an area. In many ways, massage can be a form of heat therapy, having some of the same effects .

The quick answer for ice vs heat for back pain is that ice is appropriate for inflammation, and heat is the go-to when muscles are sore, tense, or strained. Well discuss this further below.

That said, there is no substitute for talking to your doctor and getting a proper diagnosis of the cause of your pain. Knowing more about the roots of an injury or condition is the best way to design appropriate, effective treatment. Using heat or ice at the right time could further exacerbate your condition.

When To Alternate Between Ice And Heat For Back Pain

Some back pain is caused by a variety of factors, including both muscles and the spine itself. This means that you may want to try both ice and heat for your back pain. The University of Michigan says, You may also want to try switching between heat and cold. Use heat for 15 to 20 minutes, then a few hours later use ice for 10 to 15 minutes.

Dr. Susan Baker explains this a bit further: In the case of icing and heating back muscles its important to note that although a hot shower might feel good, the heat might actually be increasing inflammation by opening up blood vessels. Icing and heating in combination breaks the cycles in which muscle spasms cause pain.

With these generalities in mind, lets examine some of the most common back pain causes and discuss whether heat or ice is preferable.

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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.

When To Avoid Hot And Cold Therapy

ICEWRAPS Extra Large Ice Pack for Injuries, Covers

Under certain circumstances, you may need to avoid using cold therapy, heat therapy or both for your lower back pain. If you suffer from any of the following, we always recommend that you talk with your doctor to determine best practices for you.

  • Open wounds, dermatitis, blisters or rashes
  • Impaired sensations

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Trigger Points Dont Like Cold Either

Trigger points are probably a major cause and/or compication of most back pain. They may be one way that sensitization manifests in the body.

Trigger points are pressure-sensitive spots associated with pain and stiffness, which are common in the low back. Theoretically, they are tiny patches of cramping muscle tissue an aching micro-cramp, rather than the whole muscle spasms that people often think they feel in the back.

These little monsters are probably aggravated by cold. There is no science whatsoever that directly supports that, just some expert opinion, and my own personal and professional experience. It does seems possible that little tiny cramps might get cranky when chilled.

When To Use Ice For Lower Back Pain

In most instances, you should use ice on your back for the first 24 to 72 hours following an injury. Cold therapy helps minimize swelling and inflammation. This, in turn, eases your pain. Cold therapy may also decrease tissue damage.

Whether you use an ice pack, a frozen towel or even a bag of frozen vegetables, place a cloth between your skin and the source of cold to prevent ice burn. Cold therapy should be applied for no more than 20 minutes at a time, but it can safely be applied up to 10 times in a 24-hour period.

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The Path To Pain Relief

Remember that heat and ice are not the solution to long-term pain relief. They are the paths to the solution. The goal of both ice and heat is to break the pain-spasm cycle and allow you to do the stretching exercises that build muscle strength and flexibility. Thats what brings prolonged pain relief. And thats the ultimate goal, isnt it?

When To Use Heat For Back Pain

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

After the inflammatory phase, the first 72 hours, you can start to introduce heat to the situation in most cases. However, in some cases, even after the first 72 hours, its still too early for heat. If you continue to have sharp pain, or have pain that radiates down your leg, do not use heat, its too early and you should continue to ice until these symptoms subside.

Generally speaking, heat is good option for chronic or long-term issues that present with dull and achy pain, as well as muscle tightness. Heat helps to increase pliability of tightened muscles and increases your flexibility, which in turn helps to decrease your pain and improve function.

As a general rule, you want to use heat for about 30 minutes at a time. Anything longer than 30 minutes, and you may start to notice increased inflammation and pain.

There are two different types of heat therapy: Dry heat and Moist heat.

Dry heat Easy to apply. Includes heating pads and dry heat packs.

Moist heat slightly more effective than dry heat, takes less time, however, its more difficult to apply. Includes moist heat packs, steamed towels, and hot baths.

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Best Pinched Nerve Home Remedies And Preventions

Other than applying heat and ice, there are a few other home remedies and preventative measures you can try for a pinched nerve.

  • Maintain a healthy posture.
  • Get a massage .
  • Try yoga or other gentle stretching techniques.

And of course, if home remedies dont work and the pain persists, know when to visit a chiropractor. Doctors of chiropractic specialize in pinched nerves. The nervous system and the musculoskeletal system are intertwined, and chiropractors are trained to use different techniques to relieve the pressure on a pinched nerve. Some patients see relief after only one visit!


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.

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How To Apply Ice

There are several different methods for icing your lower back. For instance, you can perform ice massage therapy, which entails gently rubbing a chunk of ice over the affected area to help numb your back and reduce any pain. You can also apply ice without any massage if you have a store-bought or makeshift cold compress, such as a bag of frozen vegetables.

If you use ice for back pain, remember not to leave any ice directly on your skin for a prolonged period to avoid potential burning. If you plan to leave the cold compress in place, wrap the ice pack in a thin washcloth or a couple of paper towels to create a layer of protection between the ice and your skin. You can ice for up to 20 minutes at a time.

Tips For Lower Back Pain Cold Treatment

Reusable Hot Cold Gel Ice Pack Heat Therapy

For at home cold therapy, follow these general tips below:

  • Use to reduce swelling and inflammation
  • Apply cold for no more than 20 minutes.
  • Do not apply directly to skin, use a towel or thin clothing as a barrier
  • Try lying on your stomach to keep the ice pack from slipping off the targeted area or utilize a gel pack designed with straps to wrap around your waist and hold in place.
  • Repeat 8 to 10 times throughout the day
  • Avoid using ice and cold packs for muscle spasms or muscular tension, as it can make these conditions worse
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    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.

    Can You Make A Pinched Nerve Worse

    You can make a pinched nerve worse in several different ways. So, now that weve covered how to use heat and ice therapy to make a pinched nerve better, lets talk about things that can make a pinched nerve worse. Below are some examples of things to avoid when dealing with a pinched nerve.

    • Lifting heavy things.
    • Performing high-intensity or high-speed exercise.
    • Playing contact sports.
    • Sitting or laying too much .
    • Avoiding the doctor if the pain persists.

    Best Pinched Nerve Home Remedies and Preventions

    Other than applying heat and ice, there are a few other home remedies and preventative measures you can try for a pinched nerve.

    • Maintain a healthy posture.
    • Eat anti-inflammatory and whole foods.
    • Get plenty of rest .
    • Get a massage .
    • Try yoga or other gentle stretching techniques.

    And of course, if home remedies dont work and the pain persists, know when to visit a chiropractor. Doctors of chiropractic specialize in pinched nerves. The nervous system and the musculoskeletal system are intertwined, and chiropractors are trained to use different techniques to relieve the pressure on a pinched nerve. Some patients see relief after only one visit! Resources:

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    Is Ice Better Than Heat Is Heat Better Than Ice

    Ideal uses of ice and heat are roughly equal in potency which isnt very potent. Neither is strong medicine. Some experiments have shown that both have only mild benefits, and those benefits are roughly equal in treating back pain. The reason to use them is not that they are highly effective treatments they rarely are but because they are so cheap, easy, and mostly safe, especially compared to many other popular treatments.

    How To Use Heat For Back Pain

    Heat or Ice? Which one is best to treat pain?

    You can apply heat to the affected area using a warm compress. An electric heating pad is an effective method. You can also try dampening a towel and heating it briefly in the microwave. Once the towel is warm but not hot, you can rest it on the sore spot. Taking a warm bath or shower can also help.

    Apply heat for 15 to 20 minutes, then remove the warm compress. Make sure to protect your skin from getting burned. Use a protective cover over a heating pad or wrap a dry towel around one you have heated in the microwave. You can apply heat several times per day.

    If you have pain accompanied by stiffness first thing in the morning, applying heat as soon as you wake up can warm and loosen the muscles. Keep a heating pad near your bed and apply it to stiff back muscles before getting up. Do not sleep with a heating pad, as that is a fire hazard and can lead to burns.

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    When Not To Use Heat

    Heat is not suitable for all injury types. Any injury that is already hot will not benefit from further warming. These include infections, burns, or fresh injuries.

    Heat should not be used if:

    • the skin is hot, red or inflamed
    • the person has dermatitis or an open wound
    • the area is numb
    • the person may be insensitive to heat due to peripheral neuropathy or a similar condition

    Ask a doctor first about using heat or cold on a person who hashigh blood pressure or heart disease.

    Excessive heat must be avoided.

    When cold is applied to the body, the blood vessels contract, vasoconstriction occurs. This means that circulation is reduced, and pain decreases.

    Removing the cold causes vasodilation, as the veins expand to overcompensate.

    As the blood vessels expand, circulation improves, and the incoming flow of blood brings nutrients to help the injured tissues heal.

    Alternating heat and cold can be useful for:

    • exercise-induced injury or DOMS

    Contrast water therapy uses both heat and cold to treat pain. Studies show that it is more effective at reducing EIMD and preventing DOMS than doing nothing.

    A review of studies has suggested that, for elite athletes, CWT is better at reducing muscle pain after exercise compared with doing nothing or resting.

    However, the researchers point out that it may not better than other strategies, such as heat treatment, cold treatment, stretching, or compression. They say that more evidence is necessary.

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    Alternating Heat And Ice Therapy For Back Pain

    In some cases, both ice and heat therapy are necessary to provide back pain relief. By alternating ice compress and warm compress, you can increase the likelihood of relieving your back pain by taking advantage of the benefits of the hot and cold application.

    To begin alternating ice and heat therapy, we recommend using ice before the heat packs. Ice therapy is the best applied during the first stage of injury since it temporarily numbs and shocks the muscles attention while the heat promotes relaxation immediately after.

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    So What Is The Story With Necks

    The information we gave explaining what happens to the back when it is iced holds true with necks as well. However, the argument against icing the neck is not as strong as it is with the back, the word never does not apply here.

    Just like back pain, the majority of neck pain is not considered inflammatory or injurious in nature. This is the criterion for icing an injury. Just like backs, the neck is easily irritated with cold. Have you ever been hit in the back of the neck with a snow ball? The cold hurts worse than the snow ball impact!

    The most common problem people face with their neck is the crick in the neck, which is enough to make you slightly hostile. This is usually brought on by chilly air hitting the neck at night, and not by the way you slept on your pillow.

    Even if we break down all of the specifics, it is better to learn by experience. Take a small piece of ice from the freezer and place it on your neck for a few seconds. You will see quickly that your neck does not like it at all.

    Unfortunately, no matter what you do, the neck is more fragile than the back. Because the brain knowns this, it pays more attention to the back than it does the neck, and protects it a lot more. Necks are susceptible to being injured a lot more easily, especially with a condition known as whiplash which is way more common than straining muscles in your lower back.

    Should You Use Ice Or Heat After A Chiropractic Adjustment

    Jamestown chiropractor back pain relief Ice vs Heat

    This is dependent on the presenting problem. If the inflammation is from a joint in the spine or disk ice would be the way to go. If the presenting problem is from muscle spasm, heat would be beneficial. Heat would not be recommended directly after a massage or deep tissue work though. If you are unsure always go for ice

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