If you’re one of many back pain sufferers, you’re probably familiar with the use of ice or heat for back pain. Two very common non-pharmaceutical treatments, heat and ice therapies have their own benefits. It’s important to figure out which is the right form of therapy for your condition.
Ice: Shocking the Muscles into Relief
Ice therapy is a common and effective method for reducing swelling and inflammation caused by lower back injuries, muscle sprains and conditions such as arthritis.
How does cold therapy help? The shock of the cold applied to the injured area causes the veins to contract, giving the muscles room to flex and become less inflamed. Combining ice therapy with heat is a great way to help the area recover faster. Doctors generally recommend ice therapy in three 10-15 minute increments a day for the first few days following an injury.
Heat: Blood and Oxygen Flow
Heat therapy can be a more effective method of lower back pain relief for those suffering from chronic lower back pain and back injuries. When applied, heat relaxes the veins, which has several effects on the injured area:
- It improves blood flow so nutrients and oxygen, necessary for the healing of tissue, can get to the injured area faster.
- The heat relaxes and soothes the muscles, reducing pain.
- The increased flow of oxygen and blood helps the body to eliminate cellular waste so the injured area can heal faster.
Heat is often used in combination with ice therapy for injuries to the lower back. However, it’s also an effective solo treatment for chronic back pain. Moist heat — showers, baths or moist warm towels — often works best for back pain relief, but heating pads and all-day heat packs can help alleviate pain throughout the day. Typical treatment lasts 15-20 minutes.
Long-lasting Pain Relief
Heat and cold therapies can be great for relieving back pain for minor injuries, but if the pain persists, you may need a more effective way to get the upper or lower back pain relief you need. If you’re experiencing chronic pain from arthritis, a degenerative disc or another back condition, talk to your doctor to find the right pain management plan for you.