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What’s Best For Back Pain Hot Or Cold

When To Use Caution

Best Positioning Tips for Sciatica (Herniated Disc) Cold vs. Hot??

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.

When To Use Heat Vs When To Use Ice For Lower Back Pain

Both heat and cold therapy are beneficial and can provide effective relief from lower back pain. If you are like many people, though, you might not know when to use heat vs. when to use ice for lower back pain to achieve the maximum benefit. If you are suffering from lower back pain, read on to discover whether you should be using heat or ice.

When To Use Heat And When To Use Ice

Keep in mind that heat isnt recommended for every type of back pain. It can relieve chronic pain and stiffness, such as those associated with arthritis and other muscle or joint ailments.

However, if your back injury is recent, cold therapy is more effective because it restricts blood vessels and reduces swelling, which can dull pain.

Use cold therapy for the first 24 to 48 hours after an injury, and then switch to heat therapy to stimulate blood flow and healing.

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Whats Better For Inflammation Heat Or Ice

Some other common questions are if heat can help heal a pulled muscle, or how long you should apply heat to the injury. While heat may be beneficial in the long term to heal the pulled muscle itself, ice may initially be the best treatment for the injury to reduce inflammation and the pain it causes.

If youre sore or achy, start by applying localized heat to the area thats bothering you.

Pay close attention to how your body reacts to the application of heat. Does your pain go away with a heating pad? If it doesnt go away or the pain gets worse, stop using heat and call your doctor to set up an appointment to discuss the cause of your pain. Even if the heating pad does ease your pain, keep a close eye on how often you use heat to control your pain. If it becomes something you rely on a lot, you may still want to talk with a doctor about whats causing your ongoing pain.

Sometimes doctors recommend alternating between ice and heat therapy, which is called contrasting therapy. One instance where this is a common recommendation is in patients with arthritis. Heat therapy can ease the joint stiffness that accompanies arthritis, while ice can treat swelling or acute pain that presents itself. Over time, someone who is suffering from arthritis may learn how to use both therapies to ease their pain, but only after consulting with a doctor.

Heating Back Pain Does Help

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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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Be Proactive About Ice/heat Applications

In some instances, you may experience delayed muscle soreness if you overstretch your lower back muscles. This type of pain often develops gradually over a few days as tissue inflammation progresses. You can ward off inflammation by immediately applying ice after exercising or being active. After 24 hours, switch to heat applications to help overstimulated tissues heal.

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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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:

  • osteoarthritis
  • 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.

When To Use Both Heat & Ice Called: Contrast Therapy

Ice Or Heat For Back Pain Relief & Injury?

You can use ice and heat separately, or in some cases, together, which is known as contrast therapy. The key to contrast therapy is to start with heat and finish with ice. This has to do with the dilation and constriction of blood flow to the injured area.

You want to start with dilating the blood vessels with heat, followed by constriction of blood vessels with the ice. This works to create a pumping effect. which promotes healing of the area. Contrast therapy is generally used after the first 72 hours, before you start to apply heat on its own.

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Where To Buy A Heat/cold Compress As Big As Your Back

Dreading the thought of seeking out ice and heat packs for injury care? This large hot and cold back wrap that comes with two gel packs simplifies injury treatment.

It is specifically designed to provide concentrated cold/hot therapy to your sore or injured back, with the added benefit of compressing and supporting your mid- to low-back.

You can put the low-profile wrap on under or on top of your clothes. The belt-like product makes it easy for you to ice or heat your back on the go, and its lightweight foam material is soft and breathable.

Without it, you may be stuck lying on your stomach for long periods each day with an ice pack or heating pad. Sticking to a regular ice/heat therapy schedule leads to faster and more lasting results.

This hot/cold therapy belt has pockets for two non-toxic gel pads, which come with your purchase. You can also buy extra gel packs so you dont have to wait as long for an ice pack to refreeze. Both reusable ice packs are freezer and microwave safe.

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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Headaches: Ice Or Heat

The right treatment depends on the type of headache you have. Headaches caused from tension can benefit from heat therapy, which helps relax tight muscles throughout the neck and jaw, says Jeffrey Yellin, DPT, CSCS, at Professional Physical Therapy. Sinus headaches can also benefit from the use of heat therapy to help warm nasal passages and loosen some of the built-up secretions. Migraines, or other vascular induced headaches, tend to respond better with the use of cold therapy.

You could also try these home remedies for headaches.

Ice Massage For Sciatica

Should you use an ice pack or a heat pack?

An ice massage is the application of ice directly on the affected area in a circular motion. Ice massages help relieve pain over a wider region. A hand-held ice unit can be made by freezing water in a paper cup and cutting the top half of the cup to expose the ice .

In the rear pelvic area, ice massage may be done directly on the skin for 3 to 6 minutes . An ice massage creates a cold feeling followed by a slight burning or tingling sensation, and finally, numbness occurs. Once numbness is felt, icing must be stopped to avoid frostbite. When the numbness wears off, the procedure can be repeated. This treatment can be done 2 or 3 times a day.

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When To Use Cold Therapy For Back Pain

  • 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.

Use Caution If Youre Pregnant

If youre pregnant and have back pain, its safe to use a heating pad. You should avoid prolonged exposure since overheating can be dangerous to a fetus. It can lead to neural tube defects or other complications.

This is more probable in a hot tub or sauna, but err on the side of caution. Use a heating pad on the lowest setting while pregnant, and only for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Since heating pads decrease pain signals and increase circulation, use the pad soon after developing painful flares or stiffness to speed the healing process.

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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.

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Ice or Heat? Hot or Cold? Which is Best for Injuries & Pain Relief?

Generally speaking, heat therapy is your best solution for sore, stiff or aching muscles, especially in the neck or back.

Your muscles typically respond well to heat, especially when your discomfort stems from overexertion, trigger points , spasms, cramps , bad posture, or restless leg syndrome.

Using a heating pad is also one of the best things you can do for easing pain or stiffness stemming from arthritis.

A heating pad can also soothe hurts-all-over pain or sensitivity stemming from fibromyalgia, sleep deprivation, rheumatic diseases or vitamin D deficiency, to name a few examples.

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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.

It is recommended to use heat therapy intermittently in 20 minute intervals with a 2-hour break in between sessions.

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.

What Is Heat Useful For

Heat is useful for relieving:

  • osteoarthritis
  • 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.

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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 afterward 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 afterward 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.

Types Of Cold Therapy

Back pain treatment: Hot or cold compress is best home remedy for lower ...

Some ways of using cold therapy include:

  • a cold compress or a chemical cold pack applied to the inflamed area for 20 minutes, every 4 to 6 hours, for 3 days. Cold compresses are available for purchase online.
  • immersion or soaking in cold, but not freezing, water
  • massaging the area with an ice cube or an ice pack in a circular motion from two to five times a day, for a maximum of 5 minutes, to avoid an ice burn

In the case of an ice massage, ice can be applied directly to the skin, because it does not stay in one place.

Ice should not be applied directly to the bony portions of the spinal column.

A cold compress can be made by filling a plastic bag with frozen vegetables or ice and wrapping it in a dry cloth.

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