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Should I Use Ice or Heat for My Lower Back Pain?


Topical application of ice or heat treatment can bring an unexpected level of pain relief for most kinds of lower back pain-- but each treatment is unique and works better in specific situations.


Range of lower back issues that can benefit from heat and cold therapy

Heat and/ or cold therapy is helpful either as a primary or adjunctive treatment. However, people typically overlook this treatment because it's easy, inexpensive, and readily available. The following typical lower back conditions may take advantage of heat or cold treatment:


  • Lower back pain from common conditions, such as herniated or degenerated discs, spinal stenosis (narrowing of the bony canals of the spine causing nerve compression), or spondylolisthesis.

  • Direct lower back injury from falls, sprains, sports injuries (twisting injury from swinging a golf club), or collisions.

  • Pulled back muscle due to excessive strain or force leading to overstretching of the muscle fibers, such as from raising weights.

  • Exercise-induced muscle pain, such as from attempting a brand-new workout, working out without an initial period of warming up, or overdoing a particular exercise.

Always use cold and heat therapy intermittently, for 15 to 20 minutes, with a 2-hour break in between to prevent skin and nerve damage.


3 Guidelines to use cold and heat for different kinds of back pain


While some individuals might choose to use one kind of therapy over the other, specific conditions may react better when a particular therapy is used. Here are common examples of various types of lower neck and back pain and the therapy of choice for each.



  1. Usage cold first and after that apply heat for acute back pain.

When your neck and back pain is acute (less than a 4-week period) and/or happens due to a direct injury, use cold therapy first. Lowering the body temperature level will help restrict the capillary, reduce swelling, decrease inflammation, and cause a numbing effect.



Once the inflammation has subsided, use heat treatment. When you apply heat, it enhances the flexibility of soft tissues, movement of muscles, and overall functioning of the back. The local warmth stimulates blood flow in your lower back, which in turn brings healing nutrients to the injured tissues.



It is also advised to continue using heat treatment intermittently for a number of hours or days in order to enhance tissue recovery and avoid reoccurrence of discomfort.


  1. Try continuous, low-level heat for subacute or chronic back pain.

If you have chronic or subacute neck and back pain (more than a 4-week duration), apply heat therapy using a medium that offers consistent heat. For example,


  • Keep a warming or heated blanket wrapped up around your lower back.

  • Use a commercial adhesive wrap that sticks to the lower back and provides several hours of low-level heat.

When utilizing continuous low-level heat, ensure to follow the package directions thoroughly to prevent skin damage.


These techniques offer closed heat to the lower back, encouraging and promoting recovery.


  1. Ice your back instantly after exercise to reduce muscle soreness.

Muscle discomfort and back pain can occur from extensive exercises, trying a new kind of exercise, or perhaps from excessive walking. Pain from these activities may begin on the first day but typically continues to peak until the 3rd day. This phenomenon is called delayed onset muscle soreness and can cause significant inflammation and discomfort in your back.


When you have back pain from exercise or exertion, use cold therapy immediately after the activity to reduce tissue damage, inflammation, and pain. After a 24-hour period, use heat therapy to encourage tissue healing.


Tips to combine heat and cold therapy in your daily regimen.

Here are a few pointers to assist you include making use of heat and/or cold therapy in your everyday activities:.


  • Keep a heat patch near your bed-- use it first thing in the early morning to heat up your muscles if you get up with an achy or stiff back.

  • Apply a cold patch prior to bed if you have exercised or exerted your back.

  • If you have chronic back discomfort, use heat therapy prior to sleeping and after waking up.

  • Carry a couple of self-activating heat patches and ice packs in your bag or automobile to use while driving or at work.

You are more likely to benefit from heat and cold therapy when you make these treatments a part of your everyday routine.


DIY and store-bought alternatives for heat and cold therapy.


Finding the most efficient mode of treatment might need an experimentation. Here are some particular choices for you to think about:.


  • Heat pack options:
    • Make your own heat pack using a sock filled with rice and heated up in the microwave.
    • For continuous low-level heat, a commercial adhesive heat wrap works.
    • For wet heat, use a wet hot towel and for dry heat utilize a heating patch or a hot water bottle.


  • Cold pack options:
    • A bag of frozen veggies or ice-cubes covered in a towel.
    • Instant cold packs that trigger on-demand can be purchased from the shop and work while you're traveling or at work.

You can also purchase heat and/or cold patches, warming blankets, or specialized heat-emitting devices, such as ultrasound makers and/or infrared mats from the shop.


When to not use heat or cold for your lower back.

There are some conditions and circumstances that need to not be treated with heat or cold treatment:


  • These therapies must not be used on open wounds, bleeds, or when there is any fluid flowing out of the painful region.

  • If you have certain chronic conditions such as numerous sclerosis, poor blood flow, spinal cord injuries, diabetes mellitus, and/or rheumatoid arthritis, it is advised to prevent heat treatment. Heat in these conditions might cause excessive burns, skin ulceration, and/or increased swelling.

It is also advisable to avoid laying straight on the heat source due to the threat of burns, skin damage, or permanent changes in skin color. A protective barrier such as a fabric or towel might be utilized in between your skin and the source of heat.


In general, lots of people feel heat therapy works better to alleviate their lower pain in the back compared to cold. Taking oral pain-relieving drugs while utilizing these therapies might have an extra effect on the total discomfort relief.

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