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What Is Better For Back Pain Heat Or Cold

What Heat Does For A Pinched Nerve

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

When applied correctly, heat is very beneficial for a pinched nerve.

  • Heat is soothing and relaxing both for your muscles and your mind.
  • Heat promotes healing by bringing new blood flow to the area, which brings healing properties and helps flush toxins away.
  • You can by applying heat to the area.
  • Using heat can also increase the range of motion in the joint.

Why Does Sciatica Pain Get Worse At Night

An unhealthy sleeping position or unsupportive bed can exert excess pressure on your lower back, further compressing the nerve roots. To avoid this, try sleeping on your back with pillows beneath your knees. This position will prevent pain by properly distributing body weight and optimizing spinal alignment.

If you suffer from chronic sciatica, consider investing in a mattress for back pain. Some beds are specifically constructed to prevent and relieve such pain, offering purposeful support and options fit for your particular sleeping position and body type.

The Real Difference Maker For Chronic Pain: Active Physical Therapy

Many people with chronic back pain are under the impression that they have two options: live with pain and try to minimize it, or have surgery. But for most back pain sufferers, theres another option a better option for providing long-term relief: active physical therapy.

Active physical therapy or targeted therapy involves exercises aimed at building up the specific muscles that support your back.

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Should I Use Heat Or Cold For Sciatica

The answer is, it depends. When it comes to using heat or cold for sciatica treatment you must first get the pain properly assessed. Given the two different types of sciatica its essential that you first determine the origin of the pain. Only then will you know whether to use heat or ice to treat your sciatica.

As there are several different condition types that produce sciatic pain so its essential you determine whether it is entrapment or compression first because the conditions are different and theyre treated differently.

If youve got an entrapment type sciatica and youre treating it as compression or vice-versa, then it wont get better. In fact, its more likely to get worse. So use our pain assessment tool to find the likely cause of your pain. Youll get a treatment guide full of expert advice included in the price.

How Can I Treat Back Pain At Home

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

Back pain can be debilitating and cause you to miss work. Its important to know the best ways to treat your back pain at home.

You can treat your back pain with over-the-counter medications, heat therapy and stretching exercises. If these treatments dont relieve your pain, your doctor may recommend prescription medications or physical therapy.

Here are some things you can do to ease back pain at home:

Get plenty of sleep. Sleep helps reduce stress on the body and helps rebuild muscles that have been injured during the day.

Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen . Dont take more than 4 grams of acetaminophen in 24 hours, or 3 grams of ibuprofen in 24 hours without consulting your doctor first.

Apply heat or cold packs to the affected area to relieve muscle spasms and swelling. Apply heat for 15 minutes before exercise and cold packs afterward if needed.

Do stretching exercises to move your joints through their full range of motion several times each day especially after getting up from bed or sitting for long periods of time until you feel better. You can find stretching instructions online or in books about health and fitness,

Back pain is a common problem. It can be caused by many things, including muscle strains, arthritis and herniated discs.

Here are some tips for treating back pain at home:

Back pain can be debilitating, but there are ways to treat it without resorting to pills or surgery.

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When Not To Use

There are certain cases where heat therapy should not be used. If the area in question is either bruised or swollen , it may be better to use cold therapy. Heat therapy also shouldnt be applied to an area with an open wound.

People with certain pre-existing conditions should not use heat therapy due to higher risk of burns or complications due to heat application. These conditions include:

Heat therapy is often most beneficial when used for a good amount of time, unlike cold therapy, which needs to be limited.

Minor stiffness or tension can often be relieved with only 15 to 20 minutes of heat therapy.

Moderate to severe pain can benefit from longer sessions of heat therapy like warm bath, lasting between 30 minutes and two hours.

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.

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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.

Should I Use Ice Or Heat To Relieve Lower Back Pain

Ice Or Heat For Back Pain Relief & Injury?

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.

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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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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

    See Pulled Back Muscle Treatment

  • 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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How To Safely Apply Ice And Heat

You can apply ice and heat in lots of ways. Our experts generally recommend up to 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off:

  • Ice packs: Frozen peas or corn, ice cubes in a baggie or frozen gel pack. You can ice beyond 48 hours, until swelling, tenderness or inflammation are gone.
  • Ice massage: Freeze water in a Dixie cup, peel back the top, and massage the tender area until its numb. .
  • Cold masks: Place a cold mask, available at drugstores, over your eyes or lay a towel soaked in cold water over your forehead and temples.
  • Moist heat: Enjoy a bath, shower, hot tub or whirlpool using warm, not hot, water .
  • Heat wraps: Drape a heat wrap, available at drugstores, around your neck like a scarf .
  • Heating pads: To avoid burns, remove heating pads if the area becomes uncomfortably warm.

How Long Should You Lay On A Heating Pad For Back Pain

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

The heating pad should stay on for about 30 minutes to be effective. The muscle or joint may not have an opportunity to warm up if you are on for too long.

If you are using a heat pad for the first time and it is not working for you, try a different type of pad. For example, if you have a foam pad that is too warm, you can try using an air pad instead.

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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 To Apply Heat Therapy

Heat therapy can be applied using dry or moist methods. Dry heat includes heating pads, hot water bottles, heat wraps, heat patches, or saunas, while moist heat consists of warm baths, steamed towels, or moist heat packs. You can also apply heat locally, regionally, or fully.

Lets go over the differences and when to use each.

  • Local heat therapy is best for small areas of pain, like a stiff lower back, and is achieved using a heat patch. Since sciatica affects multiple areas, this probably isnt the best option.
  • Regional heat therapy typically consists of warm towels and heating pads and is best for widespread pain such as the lower back and behind your pelvis, making it a great option for sciatica pain.
  • Full heat therapy is also ideal for sciatic nerve pain extending to the lower extremities. It can be practiced in a sauna or warm bath. However, sciatica may make it difficult to sit in the tub, but warm showers are just as effective.

If your sciatica causes extreme tension in your lower back, you can apply heat for 30 minutes to 2 hours, but if your sciatic pain is mild, stick to 15 to 20 minutes per session.

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Which Is Better: Heat Or Ice For A Pinched Nerve

by Dr. Brent Wells

Youve probably used heat or ice before on a sprain or a sore muscle. But, if you have a pinched nerve, you know its a different feeling than a sprain or strain. So, you may be wondering which is better for a pinched nerve, heat or ice? The answer is both. Using heat and ice for a pinched nerve is a good way to reduce swelling, promote fresh blood flow to the area, and relax the surrounding muscles that may be contributing to the pinched nerve. The trick is knowing when to use ice and when to use heat. Heading to the chiropractor can help a pinched nerve, but many people like to use home remedies if the pain isnt too bad. And the simplest home remedies are all about heat and ice. So, read on to discover how to use heat and ice for a pinched nerve.

When To See A Doctor

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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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When Heat Therapy Is Not The Answer

There are times when applying heat will make your discomfort worse or when ice therapy is a better option .

If you have truly pulled or strained your lower back muscles, applying heat will cause inflammation. Heating inflamed tissues will make your pain worse and certainly wont help things get better any time soon.

Another scenario when heat therapy is not a good idea is if you are already sweating. Adding even more heat can come across as a threat signal to your brain, prompting it to up your pain response.

This seems kind of obvious, but you should not apply heat to an open wound or infected tissue. Heat therapy should also be avoided when treating:

  • deep vein thrombosis
  • peripheral vascular disease

Guidelines For Using Heat Or Ice

Condition Solution
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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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

See Ice Packs for Back Pain Relief

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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