Ice or Heat for Lower Back Pain?

Ice or heat? Which do you use when treating lower back pain? Both can provide effective relief. Cold and heat therapies treat different aspects of lower back pain; and using them in tandem can be effective. Ice therapy can help minimize inflammation and swelling. And heat therapy can help stimulate blood flow to the area to encourage healing. Dr. Castillo usually recommends alternating ice and heat therapies, in 10 minute sessions per therapy. 

Cold and heat therapy may both provide effective relief from your lower back pain—but how do you know which one to use?

lower back pain Read on for helpful advice on deciding whether you should use ice or heat to treat your lower back pain.

Ice in the first 24 to 72 hours

As a general rule, it is best to apply cold therapy to your lower back in the first 24 to 72 hours following your lower back injury. The application of cold therapy can minimize your inflammation and swelling—which in turn may reduce your pain. In addition, ice can decrease your tissue damage and numb your sore tissues.

There are numerous options for cold therapy, including a frozen bag of vegetables, frozen gel packs, and a frozen towel. Regardless of which option you choose, make sure to note the following precautions:

  • To avoid ice burn, place a cloth between your skin and whichever source of cold you select.
  • Apply cold therapy for no more than 20 minutes at a time. You can apply cold therapy 8 to 10 times per 24 hour period.

Use heat to encourage healing

After your initial swelling and inflammation has subsided, heat therapy can be utilized to encourage healing in your lower back. The application of heat therapy stimulates blood flow to the area, which brings restorative oxygen and nutrients. Additionally, heat can inhibit the transmission of pain signals to your brain and decrease your stiffness.

There are two basic categories for heat therapy: dry and moist. Dry heat may leave your skin feeling dehydrated, but many people feel it is easier to apply. Heat therapy may be more difficult to apply, but it can aid in the penetration of heat into your muscles.

If you have diabetes, an open wound, or dermatitis it is best to avoid heat therapy altogether.

By Andrew Moeller


Continue reading the full article from Spine Health