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Why Does Heat Help Back Pain

Heat Or Cold For Chronic Muscle Pain

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

If you’ve got throbbing, aching chronic muscle pain, is heat or ice the best solution for your pain management problem? Find out which therapy is most effective for what type of pain.

There are many different pain management options for most every kind of pain from arthritis to chronic muscle pain. You can try treatments like transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation , or medications to ease pain and inflammation. But for two extremely simple pain management methods that you can do on your own, try heat and cold therapy.

Pain Management: About Heat Therapy

Heat therapy can be effective at managing chronic muscle pain or the stiff, sore joints affected by arthritis. Heat works by helping your muscles relax, which can alleviate both pain and stiffness. Applying heat to your muscles or joints also encourages circulation and blood flow to the area, which can reduce pain. Boosting blood flow to a painful area can also help to get rid of lactic acid waste buildup, which contributes to pain.

Here are some different ways to use heat therapy:

  • Apply a heating pad to the sore area some come with inserts you wet to create a moist heat.
  • Try a heated paraffin wax treatment for sore joints in the hands and feet.
  • Soak in a hot bath or stand under the spray in a hot shower.
  • Apply a heat wrap to your sore area some are shaped to contour exactly to body parts, such as the knee, back, neck, and even elbows.

Pain Management: About Cold Therapy

Here are some ways to use cold therapy:

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.

Heating Pads For Back Pain

It’s all too easy to experience back pain while going about your regular routine. Back pain is common and very inconvenient. As part of the healing process, your doctor or health care provider might recommend heat therapy to help relieve sore muscles or spasms. At Walgreens, we have an assortment of heating pads for back pain that are specifically designed to be used on this broad area of your body.

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Heating Pads Are Good For People With Arthritis

Certainly, for people suffering from arthritis the daily pain is a real challenge. Of course, there are many products available which may be able to provide a measure of relief for the pain associated with arthritis. However, using a heating pad is an inexpensive, often very effective, and enjoyable possibility for easing pain.

In addition, when used correctly, a heating pad does not come with any nasty side effects. If you, or someone you know, suffers from arthritis, why not see for yourself whether a heating pad could really make a difference in daily life? It may turn out to be the best thing you ever did!

Whats New In This Article

Heat or ice: which is best for your pain or injury?

Five updates have been logged for this article since publication . All PainScience.com updates are logged to show a long term commitment to quality, accuracy, and currency. moreLike good footnotes, update logging sets PainScience.com apart from most other health websites and blogs. Its fine print, but important fine print, in the same spirit of transparency as the editing history available for Wikipedia pages.I log any change to articles that might be of interest to a keen reader. Complete update logging started in 2016. Prior to that, I only logged major updates for the most popular and controversial articles.See the Whats New? page for updates to all recent site updates.

2018 Added article summary.

2017 Edited. Just boring maintenance, but quite thorough, and necessary after the rewrite a few weeks ago.

2017 Rewritten. I came close to just tossing this article in the digital trash, but decided it could be saved by a rewrite fairly easily. In a rare move towards brevity, it is now much shorter! The role of trigger points have been demoted to a minor subtopic . Sensitization and the mind game in low back pain are now the focus.

2017 Editing and modernization, mainly modernizing my explanation for the role of trigger points in back pain.

2016 Light editing, miscellaneous clarifications and modernization, especially an introduction to the idea of sensitization.

2005 Publication.

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Having Someone Walk On Your Back

Maybe some of you have asked a friend or family member to walk on your back in those desperate moments where you feel throbbing pain in the middle of your spine. Warning this move is extremely dangerous. That much pressure on your back can cause a sprain, strain, rib fracture, disc herniation or other back injury. It may feel good for a few moments but its not worth the risk of seriously damaging your spine.

Hot Water Bottle Or Gel Pack

Heated gel packs and water bottles go directly on the skin provided they are at a safe temperature. If your pack or bottle is too hot, cover the affected area with a cloth before applying heat.

Gel packs and water bottles stay warm for about 30 minutes. Once they cool, allow your body temperature to regulate before reheating. Applying too much heat to a concentrated area is detrimental to your body temperature regulation.

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Types Of Heating Pads

Different heating pads are available for back pain. This includes a standard electric heating pad that offers multiple heat settings.

Theres also the option of an infrared heating pad. This is helpful for moderate to severe pain since the heat penetrates deeper into the muscles.

When shopping for a heating pad, look for one that has an automatic shut-off feature to prevent overheating and burns, in case you fall asleep on the pad.

You can find electric heat pads at your local pharmacy or shop for one online.

Barfing Interlude: What Does Capsaicin Have To Do With Violent Vomiting

How Can Heat Therapy Help Neck Pain and Low Back Pain? — Dr Mandell

Cannabis can cause a severe and surprisingly non-rare violent vomiting problem called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome.31 It probably does this by burning out TRPV1 receptors which are sensitive to cannabinoids! No one knows for sure, but thats the most likely reason. Widespread downregulation of TRPV1 receptors causes vomiting! Maybe. The details are hazy.

These tragic patients it really is an awful thing habitually self-treat with the hottest showers and baths they tolerate. They may be trying to compensate for the lack of TRPV1 receptor activity with a different and strong source of stimulation for them.

So how about capsaicin? Thats another source of strong stimulation for TRPV1 receptors! Gold star if you saw this coming. See Moon et al for a good technical summary of the rationale .32

The logic is simultaneously based on some seriously advanced biology and yet it kinda boils down to well, lets try to give those TRPV1 receptors a good kick, like Fonzi bashing an appliance.

Alas, it doesnt seem to work terribly well, despite the clever rationale.33 But it is, at least, a really interesting idea.

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Tips For Using A Heating Pad

Since heating pads can easily injure your skin, be sure to keep the following in mind if you use them.

Start on the Lowest Setting

It’s not a good idea to turn your heating pad to the highest setting right away. Start with the lowest setting and increase the heat gradually, if necessary. You’ll find that the low setting produces just enough heat for minor aches and pains.

Be Careful If You’re Pregnant

Pregnancy and back pain go hand in hand. If you do use a heating pad to relieve back pain while pregnant, limit your time with it. Prolonged heat can put the fetus in danger and lead to complications such as neural tube defects.

Choose the Right Heating Pad

There are no shortage of heating pads on the market so it’s important to find the right one for your ideal situation. If you’re facing moderate to severe pain, opt for an infrared heating pad as it can penetrate into the muscles more deeply. In the event your back pain is minor, a standard pad with several settings should do the trick.

If your back pain persists or worsens after using a heating pad, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor as soon as possible.

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.

Types Of Heating Pads For Arthritic Pain

Heating pads come in all sorts of styles shapes and sizes. Depending on the body part, you can buy a heat pad suitable to treat that one particular area. Below you can find links to some of the best heating pads to treat various ares of the body.

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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.

Symptoms Of Bulging Disc

Voltarol Back and Muscle Pain Relief 1.16% Gel

Bulging disc is suspected when the back pain is intensified by:

  • Lifting things

Some of the other symptoms that are associated with a more serious condition of a bulging disc include sciatica, needles and pins sensation or numbness and leg pain.

Functioning of the bowel system along with an altered bladder function helps in the identification of a critical bulging disc which helps in prompting instantaneous medical assistance.

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Ice Can Dial Up Neurological Sensitivity

Back and neck pain are mysterious and hard to explain. As they get chronic, they get even more mysterious. This weirdness is probably because they are often about neurological over-reaction to relatively minor or stale threats.12 Our nervous systems are paranoid about potential spinal hazards, and the bark is usually worse than the bite . Pain will dial up or down in proportion to how worried our brains are about the situation. This is The Mind Game in Low Back Pain.

Heat is comforting, pleasant, and relaxing. It rarely makes the brain worry.

But a chill, especially around the spine, often feels like a hazard.

Simply put, ice is more likely to make us tense up and more sensitive.

Heat is no miracle therapy, no more than ice is. Ive never seen anyone cured of chronic back pain by heat. But it does help, and it is usually more welcome than ice. Once people are cured of the belief that they have an inflamed injury that must be iced, they are happy to seek out more cozy hot baths and jacuzzis, steaming showers, heating pads and hot water bottles.

How Does Heat Help You

  • Your pain quickly eases via the sedation and soothing of any pain-irritated nerve endings.
  • The profound heating increases your blood flow to the painful area, bringing more nutrients to the injured area while flushing out the damaged debris. This flush-out helps to quicken your healing rate.
  • The deep heat also promotes a speedier healing rate by stimulating your natural metabolic rate. In other words, there is more energy available to fix the injury quicker.

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Trigger Points Dont Like Cold Either

Trigger points are probably a major cause and/or compication of most back pain. They may be one way that sensitization manifests in the body.

Trigger points are pressure-sensitive spots associated with pain and stiffness,13 which are common in the low back. Theoretically, they are tiny patches of cramping muscle tissue an aching micro-cramp, rather than the whole muscle spasms that people often think they feel in the back.14

These little monsters are probably aggravated by cold. There is no science whatsoever that directly supports that, just some expert opinion,15 and my own personal and professional experience. It does seems possible that little tiny cramps might get cranky when chilled.

When And How Long Should You Ice An Injury

Sciatica – Does Applying HEAT Help?

The sooner you ice an injury the better. Your goal should be to begin icing within five minutes.

Normally youll want to apply ice for 20 minutes, then allow the area to rest without ice for 20 minutes. Repeat this process as much as possible during the first 48 to 72 hours following injury to relieve swelling and inflammation pain.

Again, dont forget to allow the injured area to rest and recover, add compression and elevate an injury when possible.

Ice may also be helpful when dealing with a flare up of pain from a previous injury. But before you head to the freezer

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Tips On Using A Heating Pad For Arthritis

It certainly seems clear that people suffering from arthritis would do well to consider the option of using a heating pad to provide a measure of pain relief. However, how can they get the most of this form of therapy?

Firstly, it is important to make sure that you use the heating pad in a safe way. The last thing that you want to do is cause yourself a nasty burn to worry about! Be sure to protect your skin while using the heating pad, you can usually determine the best way to do this by closely following the instructions which come with your heating pad.

Because traditional heat pads heat from the skin inwards, be careful to not have the temperature too high and left on the skin for too long. This can cause the skin to dry out and burn. This is why a infrared or a heating pad with moisture is recommended.

In addition, get into the habit of using the heating pad on a regular basis. Your primary healthcare practitioner should be able to advise you on how often you should use the heating pad, as well as the duration of time for each use.

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.

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Potent But Safe Premium Counter

There are lots of potent but hazardous sources of counter-irritation. Hitting your hand with a hammer would also be an impressively effective counter-irritant, but I dont recommended it.

The discomfort of capsaicin overdose can be shockingly intense while remaining almost perfectly safe . That combo of a strong source of sensation that is also actually safe might make capsaicin a more premium counter-irritant than other options more irritating! More countering!

If capsaicin is a good counter-irritant, it strongly suggests a promising usage strategy: dont just apply capsaicin to the body part that hurts. Apply it in in patches nearby, as well as other patches distributed around your body. Give your body multiple burns to process. I think its quite likely that this strategy would be more efficacious. Naturally this hypothesis has never been tested.

When To Use Heat For Back Pain

Two Main Reasons For Back Pain and Its Alleviation Or ...

After the inflammatory phase, the first 72 hours, you can start to introduce heat to the situation in most cases. However, in some cases, even after the first 72 hours, its still too early for heat. If you continue to have sharp pain, or have pain that radiates down your leg, do not use heat, its too early and you should continue to ice until these symptoms subside.

Generally speaking, heat is good option for chronic or long-term issues that present with dull and achy pain, as well as muscle tightness. Heat helps to increase pliability of tightened muscles and increases your flexibility, which in turn helps to decrease your pain and improve function.

As a general rule, you want to use heat for about 30 minutes at a time. Anything longer than 30 minutes, and you may start to notice increased inflammation and pain.

There are two different types of heat therapy: Dry heat and Moist heat.

Dry heat Easy to apply. Includes heating pads and dry heat packs.

Moist heat slightly more effective than dry heat, takes less time, however, its more difficult to apply. Includes moist heat packs, steamed towels, and hot baths.

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