Should You Use Heat or Ice to Relieve Back Pain?

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Should You Use Heat or Ice to Relieve Back Pain?

If you are currently suffering from back pain, you know that finding relief can be an exhausting process. When it comes to self-care options, it’s common knowledge that applying hot or cold compresses can be beneficial for many types of pain. But, when it comes to your back pain, do you know which one is best and why? And, what are the rules for using each?

Simply put, there is no right answer. Both hot and cold treatments are beneficial in their own way, and it’s up to you to find the right balance that works for you. What might work for one patient and condition, may not have the same effect for another. Check out the information below to learn more about using hot and cold therapy for your back pain.

Cold Therapy

There are two primary benefits of using cold therapy for your back pain:

1. It minimizes inflammation and swelling which can reduce pain.
2. It decreases tissue damage and numbs sore tissue by slowing down nerve impulses.

There are numerous options for cold therapy, including many that can be found around the house such as a frozen bag of vegetables, a bag of ice cubes or a frozen towel. You can also purchase reusable frozen ice or gel packs from a drugstore or pharmacy. More aggressive forms of cold therapy treatments include ice baths or cryotherapy chambers.

Regardless of which option you choose, there are a couple of important things to keep in mind:

  • Always place a cloth or fabric between your skin and the cold compress in order to avoid being burned by any sort of ice.
  • Do not apply cold therapy for an extended period of time. A good rule of thumb is to only use it for about 20 minutes at a time.
  • If you have a pre-existing condition, such as diabetes or poor circulation, always check with your physician before experimenting with cold therapy.

Heat Therapy

The application of heat for back pain has two primary benefits:
1. It stimulates blood flow and improves circulation which brings healing nutrients to the damaged tissues.
2. It inhibits the pain signals from your nerves to your brain and decreases stiffness or soreness to your muscles.

Heat therapy also comes in numerous forms. Many of these are simple, at-home remedies such as taking a hot shower, soaking in a hot bath, or using a heating pad, or hot water bottle. Or, you can purchase single-use heat wraps from your local drugstore or pharmacy.

Regardless of which option you choose, there are a couple of important things to keep in mind:

  • Avoid the use of extreme heat to treat your pain. The source of heat should never be hot enough to burn the skin.
  • The amount of time hot treatment is used depends on the type of pain and the area affected. Heat can be applied for minutes or for hours depending on the source of your heat therapy.
  • If you have a pre-existing condition, such as diabetes, deep vein thrombosis or an open wound, always check with your physician before experimenting with heat therapy.

When to Seek Other Treatments

Not only can finding relief come with lots of trial and error, but many people also come to discover that there is no one simple cure that works across the board. You have to find what works for you. So, what if you tried all that you can think of and yet the pain is persisting? If this is the case, you may be suffering from chronic back pain – meaning it is constant and has lasted weeks, months or even years.

If you do suffer from extended or chronic back pain which is severely impacting your quality of life, it may be time to speak with you doctor and find out more about possible underlying conditions. In fact, if you rely on self-care for too long it can actually make your back pain worse. An experienced medical professional can help you determine the best plan of action in exploring more aggressive forms of treatment.

How Southern Laser Spine Can Help

Since every patient and condition is different and requires a unique treatment plan, it’s important to speak with a spine specialist in order to determine a diagnosis. By using one of our free assessment tools or requesting a free MRI review, Dr. Alexander and the team at Southern Laser Spine can better answer any questions you have and offer recommendations on a possible course of action.

At Southern Laser Spine, our goal is to provide our patients with the information and help that they need in order to find relief from back pain. For more information about our minimally invasive spine condition treatments, please request a free phone consultation or contact our team today.

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Topics: Back Pain