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Which Is Better For Back Pain Ice Or Heat

Should You Use Heat Or Ice With Sciatica

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

I get a lot of people reaching out to me to ask about the best tips for sciatic nerve pain relief. Luckily, thats exactly what I do! Ice and heat are really useful, totally natural pain relieving methods for a variety of injuries. Today, we are going to talk about when you should use ice and when you should use heat for sciatica pain relief.

Before we dive in, please be aware that we are part of the Amazon Affiliate programme. This page may contain Amazon affiliate links, so if you choose to purchase a product for your sciatica that we recommend through a link on this page, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps us keep Overcome Sciatica alive! Thank you for your support. Please be assured that we only ever recommend products that we truly believe can help.

Back Exercises And Stretches

Simple back exercises and stretches can often help reduce back pain. These can be done at home as often as you need to.

For information about exercises and stretches that can help, see:

A GP may be able to provide information about back exercises if you’re unsure what to try, or you may want to consider seeing a physiotherapist for advice. Read about how to get access to physiotherapy.

Doing regular exercise alongside these stretches can also help keep your back strong and healthy. Activities such as walking, swimming, yoga and pilates are popular choices.

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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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!


Ice Vs Heat Which One Is Better

Should You Use Heat or Ice for Lower Back Pain?

The answer to the question of which temperature therapy is better depends on what youâre applying the compression to. Ask yourself, âwhich one is better for ?â

If you have a fresh injury or swelling, try using ice to reduce inflammation in the area. If you feel muscle pain, consider using heat therapy to dilate the vessels to promote blood flow and healing. Itâs important not to mix these up. Heat applied to a swollen area can exacerbate swelling by promoting even more fluid and blood to flow to a location. Likewise, ice applied incorrectly can sometimes worsen an injury. Never use extreme heat or place ice directly on skin.

Some might find it helpful to alternate between cold and heat therapy. This is especially useful for osteoarthritis, exercise-induced muscle damage , and delayed onset muscle soreness . Contrast water therapy alternates cold and hot therapies by allowing a person to immerse a limb or their entire body in hot water, then following with an immersion of the same part in ice water. The procedure is repeated several times. A 2013 study suggests contrast water therapy is better for muscle soreness than rest is following intense physical activity .

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Should I Use Ice Or Heat To Relieve My Back Pain

Should I Use Ice or Heat to Relieve My Back Pain?

When I have lower back pain, should I use heat or ice? The good news is there is no wrong answer: both ice and heat can help with your pain.

When back pain is acute, start with ice. The cold helps reduce swelling and decreases inflammation. Once the inflammation has subsided, heat therapy can provide many benefits. Heat improves the flexibility of soft tissues and helps with muscle movement.

Alternating between moist heat and ice at a time can even help long term back pain. Use moist heat or ice for no more than 20-minutes per use. I often recommend 20-minutes of ice, followed by 20 minutes of moist heat therapy, and finish with ice for the best pain relief.

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Where To Apply Heat Or Ice Packs

Place your ice or cold pack in the lower back area over the pelvic region to help relieve your sciatica. This is the region where your sciatic nerve and nerve roots originate. Application of heat or ice therapy in this region can help reduce inflammation and compression to the sciatic nerve providing much-needed pain relief from your sciatica

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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

What’s Better: Ice Or Heat For Lower Back Pain

Should I Use Ice Or Heat For Back Pain? *Why Is ICE Better For Back Pain*

Lower back pain is a common condition. In fact, you are likely to experience it at some point in your life. While lower back pain can be a nuisance to your everyday life, conservative treatments are usually enough to treat it successfully. Two of these treatments are hot and cold therapy. Not only are both options incredibly convenient, they’re affordable as well.

If you’re living with lower back pain, you may be wondering which one is better. The answer is, “It depends on the timing of your back pain as well as its type.” Keep reading to learn more.

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How Does Heat Therapy Work

In general terms, using a heated back brace or soaking in a warm tub brings a lot of therapeutic benefits. For most people, heat is comforting, relaxing and reassuring.

Chronic pain goes hand-in-hand with sensitization, anxiety, tension, and hypervigilance. Applying comfortable heat to your stiff back muscles or relaxing in a sauna can soothe an over-stressed nervous system.

More scientifically speaking, heat can help your blood vessels to dilate, allowing blood to flow more freely. This helps with the removal of toxins and encourages healing.

Precautions Using A Heat Application

You should ensure the following precautions when using heat therapy:

  • Dont exceed 20 minutes when using the heat application.
  • Ensure to set a warm temperature with each type of heat therapy application to avoid skin burns.
  • Avoid using heat therapy when there is inflammation of the lower back or pelvic regions.
  • Engage insulation between the skin and the heat source to prevent skin burns.
  • You should verify the best heat type before going into the therapys elaborate application.

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How To Use Heat

You can administer heat therapy in two different forms: dry heat or moist heat. Dry heat is the kind that comes from heating pads or saunas, while moist heat comes from sources like steam towels or a hot bath or shower. Typically, when youre using either form of heat therapy, youll only apply it to the specific part of your body that is in pain. The exception to this, obviously, is a hot shower or sauna, which tend to target your whole body. Of the two options, moist heat works faster, which means you wont have to apply it as long as you would a dry heat. However, it can be messier, so it may not always be the best option.

As an aside, there are many different kinds of heating pads out there. If you opt to use an electric one, just make sure you dont fall asleep while its on, or select one that has an automatic shutoff feature instead of remaining on until you switch it off.

Is It Okay To Put Heat On A Pinched Nerve

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Overall, its okay to put heat on a pinched nerve. However, there are times when ice is best, and other times when heat is most beneficial.

The general rule of thumb for a pinched nerve is to use heat only after youve managed to get the pain to subside a little bit. When the pain first flares up, use ice or cold packs before you use heat. And dont apply heat to the area directly after applying ice. Youll want to wait 30 minutes to an hour at least.

For the best results, keep the heat on the affected area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Take a minimum 30-minute break between sessions. If you find that its helping, you can apply moderate heat to an area for up to an hour or more. Extended heat therapy is most beneficial for more severe pain from a pinched nerve. Its almost like spending time in a hot tub you can do it safely if its not too hot.

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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.

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Surgical interventions to correct spinal deformity include spinal fusion, which is a surgical procedure that uses bone graft to replace a disc. After undergoing surgery, your back will require physical therapy for three to six months. In addition to doctors and dentists, you can also see neurologists, physiatrists, and chiropractors. These specialists specialize in the brain and spinal cord disorders. They are often the best choice for patients seeking treatment for back pain.

Non-specific back pain is usually not diagnosed until the pain is long-term. There is no clear cause for non-specific back pain, but doctors should seek a diagnosis to treat the condition. It is important to visit a specialist for treatment in order to get the best treatment options. If the pain is chronic or has no specific cause, a doctor will perform diagnostic imaging to help identify the exact source of the pain. Further, they can perform MRIs to help diagnose underlying conditions.

While back pain is a common ailment, it can also be caused by something else. Many people experience sciatica or other pain in the leg, and a slipped disc could be the cause. Other types of back pain may be more acute, such as a herniated disc. For nonspecific back pain, a doctor may need to perform radiological imaging to diagnose the exact cause of the pain.

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When To Use Both Heat & Ice Called: Contrast Therapy

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.

What Ice And Heat Are Not For

HEAT or COLD for Back Pain â Is heat or ice best for pain and injuries?

Both ice and heat have the potential to do some minor, temporary harm when used poorly. Heat can make inflammation significantly worse. Ice can aggravate symptoms of tightness and stiffness it can also just make any pain worse when its unwanted.

Both ice and heat are pointless or worse when unwanted: icing when youre already shivering, or heating when youre already sweating. The brain may interpret an excess of either one as a threat, but icing is more threatening and when brains think theres a threat, they may also amp up the pain.5 Ice seems to be feel more threatening to most people.

Be especially wary of icing muscle pain and it may not be obvious. You may think your back is injured, for instance, but it may just be muscle pain. Trigger points can be surprisingly intense and easily mistaken for iceable injury and inflammation. But if you ice trigger points, they may burn and ache even more acutely. This mistake is made particularly often with low back pain and neck pain the very conditions people often try to treat with ice.

Heat and inflammation are the other particularly bad combination. If you add heat to a fresh injury, watch out: its going to get worse! A physician once told my father to heat a freshly injured knee, and wow it swelled up like a balloon, three times bigger than it had been before. And three times more painful.6

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When Not To Use Ice

Cold is not suitable if:

  • there is a risk of cramping, as cold can make this worse
  • the person is already cold or the area is already numb
  • there is an open wound or blistered skin
  • the person has some kind of vascular disease or injury, or sympathetic dysfunction, in which a nerve disorder affects blood flow
  • the person is hypersensitive to cold

Ice should not be used immediately before activity.

It should not be applied directly to the skin, as this can freeze and damage body tissues, possibly leading to frostbite.

Professional athletes may use ice massage, cold water immersion, and whole-body cryotherapy chambers to exercise-induced muscle damage that can lead to delayed onset muscle soreness . DOMS commonly emerges 24 to 48 hours after exercise.

A study published in The Cochrane Library in 2012 suggested that a cold bath after exercise may help prevent DOMS, compared with resting or doing nothing.

The participants spent between 5 and 24 minutes in water between 50 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit, or 10 to 15 degrees Celsius.

However, the researchers were not certain whether there may be negative side effects, or if another strategy might be more helpful.

Cryotherapy is primarily a pain-reliever. It will not repair tissues.

What Is Ice Useful For

Cold treatment can help in cases of:

  • osteoarthritis
  • strains
  • tendinitis, or irritation in the tendons following activity

A cold mask or wrap around the forehead may help reduce the pain of a migraine.

For osteoarthritis, patients are advised to use an ice massage or apply a cold pad 10 minutes on and 10 minutes off.

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So What Do You Do After A Back Injury

For back strain, people often use ice for the first 48 to 72 hours. Heat increases blood flow and inflammation, and it may not be a good idea at first

After those first few days, most experts recommend the use of either ice or heat, according to your preference. While researchers continue to look into the best ways to treat an acute injury, most doctors still recommend ice as the first line of defense for a back injury.

A 2011 review of studies published in the British Medical Journal Clinical Evidence evaluated 20 different categories of treatment to learn about their safety and effectiveness. Treatments included over-the-counter pain medications such as NSAIDs, acupuncture, McKenzie exercises , and temperature treatments.

The researchers were seeking answers to the following questions:

  • What are the effects of oral drug treatments for acute low back pain?
  • What are the effects of local injections for acute low back pain?
  • What are the effects of non-drug treatments for acute low back pain?

As far as temperature studies go, the review found moderate-quality evidence that using a heat wrap 5 days after the injury may relieve pain. Just the same, the authors cited that overall they did not find enough evidence to judge the effectiveness of any type of temperature treatment.


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