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Should You Use Ice or Heat for Your Lower Back Pain?

Hip Lower Back Pain

Topical pain relief methods are most commonly used today for lower back pain relief, but truly find effective pain relief for lower back pain. Understanding how your treatments can work for your specific situation is important. For instance, heat and cold therapy can be helpful as a primary pain relief method or as an adjunctive treatment alongside physical therapy, medication, and spinal adjustments. However, for those wondering what the best ways are to treat back pain, we’re here to provide a basic outline for when to use heat or cold therapy for your lower back, when not to use it, and how to best combat lower back pain overall. 

Our Guidelines To Help You Benefit From Heat/Cold Therapy 

One of the best things about heat or cold therapy is that it is easy to use, relatively inexpensive, and readily available to everyone! It can be a useful tool for those suffering from lower back conditions and bring unexpected pain relief. Both cold and heat have their uses in helping reduce swelling related to the muscles, nerves, and other tissues surrounding the spine, and below, we’ll describe those effects in further detail:

  • Cold Therapy: Cold therapy, either by using an ice pack or taking a cold shower, can help reduce swelling caused by inflammation, restricting the capillary blood vessels and reducing inflammation over time. Because this restriction helps create a numbing effect for those experiencing intense chronic pain, cold therapy should be used for issues such as muscle soreness and overall discomfort. 
  • Heat Therapy: Heat therapy helps replenish the muscles and blood vessels, improving overall flexibility, stimulating blood flow back into the body, and helping the body transfer nutrients to those systems. Heat therapy is especially useful for chronic back pain that cannot be controlled through medication, therapy, or other means.

When To Use Heat Or Ice Therapy For Back Pain

Because of the substantial differences between these two healing methods, cold and heat therapy should be applied in different scenarios, depending on the type of pain experienced. These methods depend on the condition; some conditions may even react better when combined with certain therapies. Below, we’ll describe some of these methods and how both ice and heat therapy should be used:

  • Acute Back Pain: Common conditions such as sports injuries, injuries from falls, and pulled muscles from unnatural movements can be cared for using a combination of cold and heat to help remove overall pain and numbness and then provide tension relief for the affected muscles. Cold and heat should be used intermittently throughout the day to enhance tissue recovery. 
  • Chronic Back Pain: People with conditions such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and car accidents should use continuous, low-level heat for pain that lasts more than four weeks. Consistent heat helps blood flow to the affected areas and promotes better recovery. 
  • Exercise-Induced Back Pain: Pain induced by intense exercises or long activities should be treated with cold therapy for the first 24 hours to help reduce signs of tissue damage, inflammation, and pain. Heat therapy should then be used after 24 hours to promote blood flow back to the lower back and encourage healing. 

Through these tips, you can easily benefit from the advantages of heat and cold therapy through daily routines. For more information about better pain relief, the best place to go is to your pain management specialist for more information.

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