Hot Or Cold For Back Pain
Q.Which is best for pain and stiffness from a sore backheat or cold?
A. When choosing between heat and cold, you may be a better judge than your doctor. Nerve fibers that carry pain sensation also sense change in temperature. As a result, stimulating the nerves with either heat or cold can diminish your discomfort, so you can choose which one to try. Both may ease your pain.
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Should You Use Dry Heat Or Moist Heat For Muscle Pain In Your Back
The answer to this question really comes down to your preference and whats most convenient. Dry heat tend to draw moisture out of the skin, leaving it dehydrated. But some prefer the sensation of dry heat and it is often the easier version to apply.
Moist heat, such as a hot bath, steamed towel or moist heating packs, can help heat to penetrate into muscles, bringing better results for some. But this can also be less convenient to apply and some do not like the mix of moisture and heat.
You may need to experiment to see what works best for relieving your back pain.
Ice In The First 24 To 72 Hours
As a general rule, it is best to apply cold therapy to your lower back in the first 24 to 72 hours following your lower back injury. The application of cold therapy can minimize your inflammation and swellingwhich in turn may reduce your pain. In addition, ice can decrease your tissue damage and numb your sore tissues.
There are numerous options for cold therapy, including a frozen bag of vegetables, frozen gel packs, and a frozen towel. Regardless of which option you choose, make sure to note the following precautions:
- To avoid ice burn, place a cloth between your skin and whichever source of cold you select.
- Apply cold therapy for no more than 20 minutes at a time. You can apply cold therapy 8 to 10 times per 24 hour period.
Watch: Video: How to Make 5 Quick and Easy Ice Packs
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Ice Or Heat For Lower Back Pain What You Should Use
When you have lower back pain, using either hot or cold therapy options can be a great help.
While these may not be the primary therapy depending on the severity of your issue, ice or heat for lower back pain can almost always be at least some help and relieve a little bit of stress or stiffness in your lower back.
Even better, these treatments are often pretty simple and inexpensive to apply to your lower back pain problem.
Lets go over which one you should use and when depending on your condition or preferences.
Heat Do For Lower Back Pain:
Applying heat to encourage the flow of blood in the area. The increased blood flow brings in more oxygen and nutrients and promotes better healing. Heat also reduces the stiffness in the muscles. The heat helps in stretching the soft tissues in the lower back, increasing the flexibility in the area. As with ice, heat also decreases pain.
All of this makes heat the best treatment for stiffness and muscle aches, especially the ones caused by trigger points. A comfortable level of heat also helps soothe your mind and relieves tension.
If your lower back pain was caused by lifestyle-related issues and not by an injury, then heat therapy may be the best course of action. Continuous over-exertion can lead to an increase in tension in the lower back. When this happens, the blood flow to the region is affected negatively. Heat counteracts the tension and aids the healing process.
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Start With Ice Therapy For Acute Back Pain
If your back pain started due to an injury or has been present for less than four weeks, its considered to be acute. For acute back pain, most people find that ice therapy helps to reduce the inflammation and alleviates discomfort. An ice pack can be used, or even a frozen packet of peas wrapped in a tea towel. Some people use ice gel therapy, which works in a similar way.
Once the inflammation has eased, heat therapy can be introduced to stimulate circulation in the affected area.
If You Answered With Stiffness In The Leg
Although this is a rarer complaint, if stiffness in the leg was someones main sciatica symptom, I would opt for applying heat to the affected buttock.
This would encourage better mobility for the sciatic nerve around the hip and allow greater movement of the leg.
To use this technique, follow this method:
- Start laying on your front on a bed or mat . Never sit on a hot water bottle
- Take a hot water bottle
- Apply it immediately to your affected buttock
- Keep it there for 15 minutes, then remove
- Allow the skin to cool to a natural temperature, then repeat the process
- Always look out for any signs of heat burn on your skin and remove immediately if you see or feel anything.
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Should You Use Heat Or Ice With Sciatica
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.
Ice Vs Heat For Lower Back Pain
For pain in your lower back, consider whether the pain may be caused by an injury, such as a pulled or strained muscle, or if it is chronic. For chronic pain, heat therapy might be best. Dry heat can be applied through a heating pad and moist heat by means of a warm bath or shower. Heat will relax those muscles.
But if your pain is caused by an injury, ice is the better option. In fact, heat may make your back pain worse.
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When To Use Ice Therapy For Back Pain
As mentioned above, ice therapy for back pain is recommended for injuries that relate to inflammation.
When the body suffers a sprain or tear, blood vessels swell in response to create space for immune cells to rush towards the injury. This inflammation also immobilizes the area to protect it from further injury . If protective inflammation goes too far, there is the risk of damage to the tissues surrounding the injury.
Ice therapy for back pain helps constrict the blood vessels, reducing inflammation. In addition, ice numbs the nerve endings responsible for pain transmission, which relieves some of your pain. Another benefit is that the body is forced to rest while ice is applied, removing the possibility for further injury.
Ice therapy is best during the acute phase of injury when the area is inflamed. Mild sprains, strains, and tears to connective tissues are most responsive to this therapy.
Much Much More Hot And Cold Information
Heat for Pain and Rehab A detailed guide to using heat as therapy for acute and chronic pain and recovery from injury
Hot Baths for Injury & Pain Tips for getting the most benefit from a hot soak, the oldest form of therapy
Never Use Ice on Low Back Pain! An important exception to conventional wisdom about icing and heating
Other closely related topics:
- Contrast Hydrotherapy Exercising tissues with quick changes in temperature, to help with pain and injury rehab .
- Icing, Heating & Tissue Temperature How much do ice packs and heating pads change the temperature of muscle and joints?
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Should You Use Ice Or Heat For Lower Back Pain Our Experts Weigh In Including The Best Ways To Use Ice And Heat Together
Ice or heat? Heat then ice? Or ice then heat?
Exactly when, how, and for how long you should use ice or heat for lower back pain is a source of debate, and there arent always hard-and-fast rules.
Back pain will strike up to 80 percent of people at one point in their lives. Its one of the most common reasons for missing work and the third most frequent reason to see a doctor, after skin problems and arthritis and joint disorders, according to a study in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
Low back pain can be short-livedlasting four to 12 weeksor chronic, in which it persists for 12 weeks or more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
There is a laundry list of potential causes of low back pain: advancing age, underlying disease, overdoing it, lifting a heavy object the wrong way, a big fall, or even a minor slip, to name a few. And it can affect many structures in your back, including your vertebrae, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and discs.
The cause of your lower back pain and the structures damaged both play a role in whether youll choose ice or heat during recovery.
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Best Practices: How To Ice Your Back
Types Of Cold Therapy
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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Heat To Relieve Back Pain
- Apply heat for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Moist heat works better than dry heat.
- Try an all-day heat wrap, available in pharmacies.
- If you are using an electric heating pad, avoid falling asleep while the pad is on. If you think you might fall asleep, set an alarm clock to go off in 20 minutes. Use heating pads set on low or medium, never on high.
Use Ice Therapy After Exercise
When you experiment with new exercise regimes or increase your training goals, you probably notice an increase in muscle soreness. Applying an ice pack to the affected area immediately after exercising helps to minimise inflammation and should, therefore, reduce any pain or discomfort. In most cases, its advisable to use ice therapy for a period of 24 hours after exercising. After this, switching to heat therapy can help to speed up the healing process.
Remember excess temperatures can damage the skin. Wrapping ice and heat packs before applying and only using them for 15-20 minutes at a time helps to minimise the risk of skin damage.
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Treating Pain With Heat And Cold
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We treat everything from arthritis to pulled muscles to inflammation with ice packs or heating pads. Treating pain with hot and cold can be extremely effective for a number of different conditions and injuries, and easily affordable. The tricky part is knowing what situations calls for hot, and which calls for cold. Sometimes a single treatment will even include both.
As a general rule of thumb, use ice for acute injuries or pain, along with inflammation and swelling. Use heat for muscle pain or stiffness.
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.
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How To Perform Ice Therapy
Ice therapy is typically used for shorter periods of time than heat therapy. Effective cold therapy involves multiple daily treatments, up to 20 minutes at a time. Remember, icing a sprained ankle, strain, or any injury for longer than 20 minutes at a time is not recommended. Some individuals may need just a single daily treatment while more severe sprains and strains may require multiple daily ice therapy applications. To prevent skin burn, individuals should place a layer of material between the skin and the ice pack or ice product. Wrapping an ice pack or bag of ice in a towel to prevent direct contact with the skin generally does the trick.
What About Injured Muscle Muscle Strains
If youre supposed to ice injuries, but not muscle pain, then what do you do with injured muscles ? That can be a tough call, but ice usually wins but onlyfor the first few days at most, and only if it really is a true muscle injury. A true muscle injury usually involves obvious trauma during intense effort, causing severe pain suddenly. If the muscle is truly torn, then use ice to take the edge off the inflammation at first. Once the worst is over, switch to heat.
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How To Treat A Sprain Strain And Stiffness
Knowing exactly when to use heat or ice can shorten recovery time and help with chronic aches, pains, and stiffness. Treating an injury can be tricky and not all sports injuries or conditions will require strictly ice or heat therapy. In some cases, both ice therapy and heat therapy can play a crucial role in the rehabilitation process. Generally speaking, ice therapy is more appropriate for new injuries, like sprains and strains, whereas heat therapy is typically better for treating chronic conditions.
The RICE method is useful immediately following a sprain or strain and can also help with swelling or sharp pain following rigorous activity or exercise. Heat is often best for tight muscles, sore muscles, as well as the stiffness and pain associated with arthritis. Heat can also be used following an acute injury to increase blood flow once the swelling has subsided. Remember, though, that applying heat too soon following an acute injury can increase swelling. After sustaining a sudden injury, ice therapy should be used for the first 24 to 72 hours and, after that, individuals can transition to heat therapy in order to increase blood flow to the area.
When Ice Therapy Is Not The Answer
As with heat therapy, there are times when it can be tempting to slap a bag of ice on any sore or twitching muscle. But doing ice therapy for back spasm and a number of other problems can actually do more harm than good.
You should not ice for:
- General muscle pains
- Trigger points
- Reducing body fat
Also, this is pretty intuitive, but you should not apply ice if youre already shivering.
Another word to the wiseyou may think you have pulled or strained a muscle in the back or neck, but actual tissue damage is quite rare. The tissue of the back is really thick and it takes a lot of forcelike whiplash from a car accident or lifting something very heavyto actually tear muscles.
So when it comes to answering the questionwhats good for back pain, heat or cold?heat usually wins out.
And if you indeed have a back strain from lifting or something else, you should only apply ice for a few days and then switch to heating pads.
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