Throwing Out Your Back With The Wrong Movement
Youre moving furniture or some similar activity when suddenly, your back goes out. Dr. Liu says you should apply ice, as this is an acute injury. Apply for 15 to 20 minutes three to four times a day for one to two weeks.
After a few weeks switch to heatfor 15 to 20 minutes three to four times daily. Its important to let at least two hours pass between either form of therapy sessions.
And by the way, the heat source should not be so hot that its uncomfortable or cause any kind of burning to the skin. In fact, for either heat or ice, the source should not be directly against your bare skin, but rather, separated by some kind of fabric.
Theres a popular myth out there that heat and cold are interchangeable in treating back pain, says Dr. Liu.
Its true that they both relieve pain, but mechanisms that produce the pain relief are completely different. That means each has its time and place.
Dr. Liu specializes in disc herniations, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, and mitigating failed neck and back surgery, among many other conditions that affect the neck, mid and lower back.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.
Switch To Heat Therapy After The Swelling Goes Down
After your inflammation is under control, switch over to heat applications. Taking this step increases circulation and gets more beneficial nutrients flowing to the affected part of your lower back. Heat also has the potential to:
Increase the flexibility of soft tissues Boost muscle movement and range of motion Facilitate the bodys natural healing abilities Prevent the recurrence of lower back pain as tissues heal
The Proteins Of Pain Scalding Heat And Spicy Heat And How We Might Be Able To Exploit Them Therapeutically
How do physical stimuli turn into sensations? How exactly do we turn whats around us into nerve impulses? Transduction is one of my favourite concepts in biology: the conversion of forces into electricity. We are all familiar with transduction in outline. For instance, we know that photons strike cells in our retina and trigger nerve impulses. But exactly how does that kind of thing work?
Some of these mechanisms remain unsolved mysteries of molecular biology, but others are now almost well understood. David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian just shared the Nobel for Medicine or Physiology for their discovery of proteins that transduce some basic stimuli into nerve impulses. Its all dizzyingly complex, of course, but it can be oversimplified down to this: they enable us to detect heat, cold, and pressure.
And this all about pain, too. Because extremes of temperature and force are dangerous! So these proteins are also the most basic components of our alarm systems.
These discoveries are only about ten to twenty years old, and have been followed by many more like them, the dawn of a much more detailed science of sensation.
Guido4, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Let the digression begin
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Opt For Ice To Prevent Sore Muscles
If you work out or play sports frequently, you may notice sore muscles, which eventually lead to back pain. The good news is you can prevent this situation by applying ice or cold therapy to your muscles immediately after physical activities. This way you can keep tissue damage, pain, and inflammation. After 24 hours, use hot therapy to stimulate the healing of tissues.
Remember that too much of anything is never a good thing. This holds true for both cold and hot therapy. Use these treatments for lower back pain in moderation. Your doctor may encourage you to pair them with other treatments such as medications, steroid injections, and physical therapy.
In the event conservative treatments deem to be ineffective, your doctor can design a surgical plan that will help you find the relief you deserve.
All information provided on this website is for information purposes only. Please see a healthcare professional for medical advice. If you are seeking this information in an emergency situation, please call 911 and seek emergency help.
When To Use Heat For Lower Back Pain
After the initial 24-72 hour of cold therapy, it is recommended to switch to heat therapy as the swelling and inflammation subside.
The heat will stimulate blood flow back to the area to help with healing, and of course, the ever important soothing effect of the heat.
Like ice therapy, there are many ways to apply heat therapy including:
- Electric heating pads
- A hot water bottle
- Or, you could microwave a bit of rice within a sock.
Be careful to avoid burning or overheating the skin. Either take a break from the heat or put something between your heat source and your skin to avoid burns.
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When Cold Can Help With Back Pain Due To Inflammation
Inflammation and swelling is part of the bodys natural response to injury, but once the threat has been neutralized and healing is underway, inflammation and swelling can actually increase pain. In these cases, ice acts to blunt the inflammatory response, which helps reduce swelling and calms the nerves around the injury site. Once the swelling has gone down, switching to heat therapy will likely be more helpful.
When To Use Cold Therapy:
- If you have had a recent injury where swelling is a problem.
- Apply an ice pack, frozen gel pack or even a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel to the affected area. You should never apply a frozen item directly to the skin, as it can cause damage to the skin and tissues.
- Apply cold treatment as soon as possible after an injury.
- Use cold therapy for short periods of time, several times a day. Ten to 15 minutes is fine, and no more than 20 minutes of cold therapy should be used at a time to prevent nerve, tissue, and skin damage.
- Elevate the affected area for best results.
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How To Make A Homemade Heating Pad
If you dont have a heating pad, you can make your own using items already in your house.
For this to work, you need an old cotton sock, regular rice, and a sewing machine, or a needle and thread.
Fill the old sock with rice, leaving just enough space at the top of the sock to sew the ends together. Next, put the sock in the microwave for about 3 to 5 minutes.
Once the microwave stops, carefully remove the sock and apply it to your back. If the sock is too hot, let it cool or wrap it in a cloth before using.
You can also use the rice sock as a cold pack. Just put it in the freezer before applying to acute injuries.
What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disorder. Over time, rheumatoid arthritis degrades and erodes many of the bodys systems, including the joints, eyes, lungs, skin, and blood vessels.
An autoimmune disorder occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the tissues of the body. Rheumatoid arthritis damages the lining of the joints, causing severe swelling, pain, fatigue, and sometimes deformity of the joints and limbs.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is episodic. This means the condition flares up during specific periods and finds remission at other times. Rheumatoid arthritis begins by affecting smaller joints, fingers and toes in symmetrical alignment, e.g. right and left at the same time. As the condition worsens, it affects larger joints and eventually the cardiovascular system and internal organs.
Understanding the factors behind the flare ups can help individuals manage the condition. Remaining in stress response for prolonged periods appears to be a strong causative component for flare-ups.
According to the NHS, rheumatoid arthritis affects more than 400,000 people in the UK. It often starts when a person is between 40 and 50 years old. Women are three times more likely to be affected than men.
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Best Types Of Cold Therapy For Lower Back Pain Relief
- Reusable Cold Packs or Compresses – these can be applied locally to the lower back area .
- Cooling Topical Gels – an alternative to ice packs and can be rubbed directly on the lower back to target and reduce inflammation.
- Ice Massage – the combination of cold therapy and massage working together. Massage balls that can be frozen are perfect for this and can also be used while stretching.
- Ice Therapy Machines – this device consists of a water basin filled with ice water + hose that delivers constant cold relief to a flexible therapy pad that can be wrapped around your lower back.
- Ice Baths – often used in sports therapy, these allow you to fully submerge your back in ice cold water temperatures for a short duration of time.
- Whole Body Chambers – with the help of liquid nitrogen, these chambers drop to around -184 degrees fahrenheit to effectively reduce inflammation along with many other benefits.
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.
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Precautions And Safety Tips
Heating pads are effective for pain management, but they can be dangerous when used improperly. Here are a few safety tips to avoid injury.
- Dont place a heating pad or heated gel pack directly on your skin. Wrap it in a towel before applying to skin to avoid burns.
- Dont fall asleep using a heating pad.
- When using a heating pad, start on the lowest level and slowly increase the heat intensity.
- Dont use a heating pad that has a cracked or broken electrical cord.
- Dont apply a heating pad to damaged skin.
Heat Therapy Helps Relax Stiff Joints
Learn different ways to ease joint pain using warm water or a hot compress.
Heat Therapy Helps Relax Stiff Joints
Learn different ways to ease joint pain using warm water or a hot compress.
Looking for a natural way to get your joints moving in the morning? Close the medicine cabinet and try an age-old remedy that has stood the test of time: heat.
If you have a chronic condition like fibromyalgia, arthritis, or lower back pain, try heating things up. Soaking in warm water or applying a heated compress is one of the oldest, cheapest, and safest forms of complementary therapy. Research has shown that heat treatments can loosen stiff joints and relieve achy muscles.
Here is how it works. When you warm up a sore joint or tired muscle, your blood vessels get bigger. This allows more blood, oxygen, and nutrients to be delivered to the injured tissues. Better circulation means more relaxation for those stiff muscles and joints.
Stay away from heat if you have an acute injury or are having a flare. If you have a sudden onset of swelling and redness from overdoing it yesterday, you are better off using cold treatments for a few days. Cold has the opposite effect of heat: it reduces blood flow and decreases inflammation.
Here are a few simple ways to heat up your daily routine.
Here are a few simple ways to heat up your daily routine.
Take a Steamy Shower
Apply a Warm Compress
Dip your hands or feet in melted paraffin wax . Wait for it to cool and peel the wax off.
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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.
Heating Back Pain Does Help
While heat is not a miracle cure for pain, and is , it does help relieve swelling and the intensity of back pain. When it comes to the back, heat is always preferred for treatment. Whether you are soaking in a hot tub to relieve the pain, or laying on a warm heating pad, you will experience extensive relief from the pain. Unfortunately, the pain tends to return after the skin cools down.
On the other hand, if the heat applied is too intense, it can cause the back muscles to recoil from the heat, causing the spasm to become worse, or even triggering a second muscle spasm around the area of the existing pain.
While ice causes trigger points in the back to over react, heat does not cause these trigger points to fire. This is why heating the area to a moderate temperature can relieve pain long enough for anti-inflammatory medications to work their way into your system.
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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!
Using Heat To Relieve Lower Back Pain
Using a heating pad is a great way to get relief when people are experiencing pain in the low back region. It is effective because heat makes the blood vessels wider, and this helps blood flow in addition to helping
the muscles relax. With more blood moving into the area, the back gets an increased supply of nutrients, and harmful elements are removed effectively.
However, people should keep in mind that just using heat is often a temporary measure. Individuals who are experiencing pain on a regular basis should definitely see a doctor and investigate more permanent solutions to help with their back issues.
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When To Not Use Heat Or Cold For Your Lower Back
There are some conditions and situations that should not be treated with heat or cold therapy. For example:
- These therapies must not be used on open wounds, bleeds, or when there is any fluid oozing out of the painful region.
- If you have certain chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis, poor circulation, spinal cord injuries, diabetes mellitus, and/or rheumatoid arthritis, it is advised to avoid heat therapy. Heat in these conditions may cause excessive burns, skin ulceration, and/or increased inflammation.1
It is also advisable to avoid laying directly on the heat source due to the risk of burns, skin damage, or permanent changes in skin color. A protective barrier such as a cloth or towel may be used between your skin and the source of heat.
In general, many people feel heat therapy works better to relieve their lower back pain compared to cold. Also, taking oral pain-relieving drugs while using these therapies may have an added effect on the overall pain relief.2
When Heat Can Help With Back Pain
The physiological effects of heat therapy include temporary pain relief, increased blood flow and metabolism, and improved elasticity of connective tissues. Application of heat helps with stretching of soft tissues around the spine and decreases stiffness. Flexibility is an important part of maintaining a healthy back.For that reason, if you find you have back pain after exercise, you might consider heat therapy before exercise and ice afterward. The heat will relieve muscle tightness, increase elasticity, and warm up muscles before use, and the ice afterward will reduce inflammation.
In any case, you should keep in mind that the pain relief from the application of heat or cold is most likely temporary and not intended as a long-term cure. In a 2010 study comparing heat and cold therapy for acute back pain, the researchers concluded that the choice of heat or cold therapy should be based on patient and practitioner preferences and availability.
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