Topical application of ice or heat treatment can bring unexpected pain relief for lower back pain types. However, each treatment is distinct and works better in particular scenarios.
Series of lower back problems that can gain from heat and cold treatment
Heat and/ or cold therapy is helpful either as a main or secondary therapy. However, people often ignore this treatment because it's easy, affordable, and easily available. The following typical lower back conditions may benefit from heat or cold therapy:
- Lower neck and back pain from typical conditions, such as herniated or degenerated discs, spine stenosis (constricting the bony canals of the spine causing nerve compression) or spondylolisthesis.
Read more about Lower Back pain Causes
- 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 lifting weights.
Read more about Pulled Back Muscles
- Exercise-induced muscle soreness, such as from trying a new exercise, exercising without an initial period of warming up, or overdoing a specific exercise.
Always use heat and cold treatment intermittently, for 15 to 20 minutes, with a 2-hour break in between to avoid skin and nerve damage.
3 guidelines to use cold and heat for various kinds of pain in the back
While some individuals might prefer to use one kind of treatment over the other, certain conditions may respond better when a particular treatment is used. Here are common examples of different kinds of lower back pain and the treatment of choice for each.
1. Use cold first and then apply heat for acute back pain.
When your neck and back pain is severe (less than a 4-week period) and/or happens due to a direct injury, use cold therapy very first. Lowering the body temperature level will help restrict the blood vessels, decrease swelling, reduce swelling, and trigger a numbing result.
Once the inflammation has decreased, use heat treatment. When you apply heat, it improves soft tissues' flexibility, muscles' motion, and the back's general functioning. 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 utilizing heat treatment intermittently for several hours or days to improve tissue healing and prevent reoccurrence of pain.
2. Try continuous, low-level heat for subacute or chronic back pain.
If you have chronic or subacute pain in the back (more than a 4-week duration), use heat treatment utilizing a medium that offers continuous warmth. For example,
- Keep a warm 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 plan guidelines carefully to prevent skin damage.
These approaches provide closed heat to the lower back, stimulating and encouraging healing.
3. Ice your back right away after exercise to minimize muscle discomfort.
Muscle soreness and neck and back pain can happen from extensive exercises, trying a new kind of exercise, and even from extreme walking. Soreness from these activities might begin on the first day but generally peak until the 3rd day. This phenomenon is called postponed onset muscle discomfort and can cause significant inflammation and pain in your back.
When you have pain in the back from exercise or exertion, use cold therapy immediately after the activity to decrease tissue damage, and swelling. After a 24-hour duration, use heat therapy to encourage tissue healing.
Tips for combining heat and cold therapy in your day-to-day routine
Here are few tips to help you incorporate the use of heat and/or cold therapy in your daily activities:
- Keep a heat patch near your bed-- use it first thing in the early morning to warm up your muscles if you wake up with an achy or stiff back.
- Apply a cold patch before bed if you have exercised or exerted your back.
- Use heat therapy before sleeping and after waking up if you have chronic back pain.
- Carry a couple of self-activating heat patches and ice packs in your bag or car to use while driving or at work.
You are most likely to take advantage of the heat and cold treatment when you make these treatments a part of your everyday routine.
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DIY and store-bought alternatives for heat and cold therapy
Discovering the most reliable mode of therapy may need a process of trial and error. Here are some specific choices for you to consider:
- Make your own heat pack using a sock filled with rice and warmed in the microwave.
- For constant low-level heat, a business adhesive heat wrap is useful.
- For moist heat, use a wet hot towel and for dry heat, utilize a heating spot or a hot water bottle.
- A bag of frozen vegetables or ice-cubes wrapped in a towel.
- Instant cold packs that trigger on-demand can be bought from the store and are useful while you're taking a trip or at work.
Likewise, you can purchase heat and/or cold spots, warming blankets, or specialized heat-emitting devices, such as ultrasound machines and/or infrared mats from the store.
When to not utilize heat or cold for your lower back
There are some conditions and circumstances that must not be treated with heat or cold therapy. For example:
- These treatments must not be utilized on open wounds, bleeds, or any fluid oozing out of the painful region.
- If you have certain chronic conditions such as numerous sclerosis, poor blood circulation, spinal cord injuries, diabetes mellitus, and/or rheumatoid arthritis, it is recommended to prevent heat treatment. Heat in these conditions might trigger excessive burns, skin ulceration, and/or increased inflammation.
Likewise, it is recommended to prevent lying directly on the heat source due to the risk of burns, skin damage, or permanent changes in skin color. A protective barrier such as a cloth or towel might be used between your skin and the source of heat.
Many people feel heat therapy works better to eliminate their lower neck and back pain compared to cold. Taking oral pain-relieving drugs while using these treatments may have an additional impact on the general discomfort relief.
Read more about Ice and Heat therapy