Heat Vs Cold For Chronic Pain
If you suffer from chronic lower back pain, the decision between when you use heat vs. when to use cold isnt quite as clear cut. For most people, obtaining effective relief requires finding a balance between using both heat and cold. If you do exercises to strengthen your back, you may find that applying heat first helps warm up your muscles and get through your workout with ease. Cold works to ease inflammation and pain following a workout.
Chronic lower back pain should be assessed by a medical professional. If you suffer from lower back pain, your Denver physical therapist can help you determine the best course of treatment. To learn more, contact Denver Physical Medicine today.
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What Is Better For Sciatica Pain Heat Or Ice
What Is Better For Sciatica Pain Heat Or Ice. If your sciatica is due to inflammation of the sciatic nerve, then cold or ice packs can provide effective relief from your. Applying heat on a pinched nerve is fine. Before starting your workout, use a warm compress to help relax the muscles in your back and prepare them for movement.
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Benefits Of Heat Therapy For Back Pain
Heat therapy is an effective remedy for back pain because it boosts circulation, which then allows nutrients and oxygen to travel to joints and muscles. This circulation helps repair damaged muscles, relieves inflammation, and improves back stiffness.
Any type of heat therapy can help relieve back pain. Yet, heating pads are ideal because theyre convenient and portable. Theyre also electric, so you can use them anywhere in your home, such as lying in bed or sitting on the couch.
Hot or warm baths provide moist heat, which also promote circulation and reduce muscle pain and stiffness. A bath might work better if you have pain or stiffness in other parts of your body, too.
The problem with baths, though, is that its difficult to maintain the water temperature. That water will slowly cool down.
On the other hand, heating pads have adjustable levels and provide a continuous flow of heat for as long as the pad is turned on.
If you dont have a heating pad, taking a warm shower or relaxing in a hot tub may also relieve back pain and stiffness. One benefit of a hot tub and shower over a bath is continuous heat similar to a heating pad.
Electric heating pads can get hot quickly and injure the skin, so its important to use them correctly.
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Alternating Hot And Cold Therapy On The Lower Back
Used individually, hot and cold therapies provide many benefits for those with lower back pain. Some people find that alternating the two is even more effective than using either in isolation. This practice is known as contrast therapy.
To enjoy the benefits of contrast therapy, you should aim to use one minute of cold therapy for every three minutes of heat application. Alternate between the two several times and always begin and end with ice. For more information, check out our Ultimate Resource guide on alternating hot and cold therapy.
What About Chronic Lower Back Pain
All of the above advice addresses when to use heat and ice following the first occurrence of lower back pain after an injury. But what about chronic lower back pain?
The simple answer is that there is no right answer. Finding the balance between cold and heat therapy for chronic lower back pain is a process of trial and errorand what might work for one patient may not for another. But when it comes to exercise, many people with chronic back pain find heat therapy helps to warm up their muscles beforehand, while cold therapy helps with pain and inflammation afterwards.
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Always Start On The Lowest Setting
To start, set the heating pad on the lowest setting. For minor aches and pain, a low setting might be more than enough to reduce pain and stiffness. You can gradually increase the intensity of heat, if needed.
There are no hard or fast rules regarding how long to use a heating pad on your back. It all depends on the level of pain and your tolerance to heat. Even so, if you use a heating pad on a high setting, remove after 15 to 30 minutes to avoid burns.
On a low setting, you can use the heating pad for a longer period, maybe up to one hour.
When To Use Heat And Ice Therapy For Back Pain
If you are debating between heat or cold for back pain, sometimes the answer is both. If you are planning to exercise, you can use a combination of heat and ice therapy to help manage any potential back pain.
Before starting your workout, use a warm compress to help relax the muscles in your back and prepare them for movement. Approximately 10 to 15 minutes of heat therapy is usually adequate.
After you cool down and stretch, use some cold therapy to help soothe any soreness in your muscles. You can apply the ice pack or cold compress immediately after working out or later in your day.
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Tips For Lower Back Pain Cold Treatment
For at home cold therapy, follow these general tips below:
- Use to reduce swelling and inflammation
- Avoid Ice burn
- Apply cold for no more than 20 minutes.
- Do not apply directly to skin, use a towel or thin clothing as a barrier
Is Heat Or Cold Therapy Effective For Chronic Back Pain
For chronic back pain due to irritation of nerves in the spine or where the nerve exits the spine, whether the application of heat or cold therapy will provide pain relief, depends on what is causing the nerve irritation.
If the pain is caused by an injury to muscles or tendons, cold therapy can be effective, along with rest and avoidance of the positions or activity that caused the muscle inflammation in the first place. In these instances cold can be enough to allow the muscle to return to a normal state and produce long-term relief.
If it is caused by a herniated or bulging disc, a narrowing of the canal in the vertebra, bone spurs, or any of several other causes of nerve irritation and back pain, heat or cold therapy will only have limited benefit in terms of pain relief.
At Healthcare Associates the emphasis is on providing a personalized approach to each patients needs. We work with you to determine the underlying cause of your back pain and find the optimal treatment for you. Call our Appointment Line at 258-7499 or contact us by email.
Ladeira DE, Cheng MS, et al. Physical therapists treatment choices for non-specific low back pain in Florida: an electronic survey. J Man Manip Ther. 2015 May 23: 109118. Table 2. doi: 10.1179/2042618613Y.0000000065
Nadler SF, Weingand K, Kruse RJ. The physiologic basis and clinical applications of cryotherapy and thermotherapy for the pain practitioner. Pain Physician. 2004 Jul 7:395-9.
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How Long Does It Take For A Nerve To Repair Itself
Regeneration time depends on how seriously your nerve was injured and the type of injury that you sustained. If your nerve is bruised or traumatized but is not cut, it should recover over 6-12 weeks. A nerve that is cut will grow at 1mm per day, after about a 4 week period of ârestâ following your injury.
When To Call Your Doctor
With these treatments, your pain should go away on its own. Call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms, because they could be signs of a bigger problem:
- The pain lasts for more than 3 days.
- It moves from your back to other parts of your body.
- You also have fever or loss of bladder or bowel control.
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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.
What Does Ice Do For Lower Back Pain
Ice calms down inflammations. When you suffer an injury, the area becomes inflamed. You would notice swelling and redness. Inflammation is the most noticeable sign of superficial tissue damage. It is very natural, and the inflammation would subside on its own in due time. However, there is no denying that it is a painful process.
Ice is the best way to counter the effects of inflammation. It calms down the inflamed tissue, reduces redness, and swelling. Icing an injury brings immediate relief to the pain it causes.
Ice also has a numbing effect on the injured and inflamed tissues. It also helps reduce the extent of the damage. Ice can help even when you are dealing with an injured muscle. However, you should note that this benefit is applicable only when the tissue is inflamed, which is the first 24 to 72 hours following the injury.
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How Do I Relieve Lower Back Pain From Sciatica
Most people know what sciatica means low back pain that radiates down to the left or right buttocks of the leg and sometimes all the way to the foot. In some cases , the pain may be overwhelming, and while it may be hard to believe, sciatica often disappears within 3 months with conservative treatment. That conservative treatment referred to here is a non-invasive therapy that can be done in the comfort of your home.
The five at-home sciatica therapies below are good options for people who have recently started to experience sciatica nerve pain or whose pain is not severe, but I urge you to get your doctors approval before you try any of these at-home therapies. If you have had sciatica for a few weeks or weak back and leg pain, you should see your doctor.
Alternating heat and ice therapy can provide immediate relief for sciatic nerve pain. Ice can help reduce inflammation while heat stimulates blood flow to a painful area . Heat and ice can also help to ease painful muscle spasms that often accompany sciatica. Apply the ice pack to the painful area for 15 minutes once every hour, then heat for 15 minutes every 2 or 3 hours. Remember to always use a barrier to protect your skin when using heat or ice, and never sleep when using heat or ice therapy.
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Be Proactive About Ice/heat Applications
In some instances, you may experience delayed muscle soreness if you overstretch your lower back muscles. This type of pain often develops gradually over a few days as tissue inflammation progresses. You can ward off inflammation by immediately applying ice after exercising or being active. After 24 hours, switch to heat applications to help overstimulated tissues heal.
Should You Use Ice Or Heat For Lower Back Pain Our Experts Weigh In Including The Best Ways To Use Ice And Heat Together
Ice or heat? Heat then ice? Or ice then heat?
Exactly when, how, and for how long you should use ice or heat for lower back pain is a source of debate, and there arent always hard-and-fast rules.
Back pain will strike up to 80 percent of people at one point in their lives. Its one of the most common reasons for missing work and the third most frequent reason to see a doctor, after skin problems and arthritis and joint disorders, according to a study in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
Low back pain can be short-livedlasting four to 12 weeksor chronic, in which it persists for 12 weeks or more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
There is a laundry list of potential causes of low back pain: advancing age, underlying disease, overdoing it, lifting a heavy object the wrong way, a big fall, or even a minor slip, to name a few. And it can affect many structures in your back, including your vertebrae, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and discs.
The cause of your lower back pain and the structures damaged both play a role in whether youll choose ice or heat during recovery.
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If You Answered With Stiffness In The Leg
Although this is a rarer complaint, if stiffness in the leg was someones main sciatica symptom, I would opt for applying heat to the affected buttock.
This would encourage better mobility for the sciatic nerve around the hip and allow greater movement of the leg.
To use this technique, follow this method:
- Start laying on your front on a bed or mat . Never sit on a hot water bottle
- Take a hot water bottle
- Apply it immediately to your affected buttock
- Keep it there for 15 minutes, then remove
- Allow the skin to cool to a natural temperature, then repeat the process
- Always look out for any signs of heat burn on your skin and remove immediately if you see or feel anything.
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Start With Ice Therapy For Acute Back Pain
If your back pain started due to an injury or has been present for less than four weeks, its considered to be acute. For acute back pain, most people find that ice therapy helps to reduce the inflammation and alleviates discomfort. An ice pack can be used, or even a frozen packet of peas wrapped in a tea towel. Some people use ice gel therapy, which works in a similar way.
Once the inflammation has eased, heat therapy can be introduced to stimulate circulation in the affected area.
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What Are Back Spasms
A spasmis when your muscles suddenly and against your will. They may painfully twinge, seize or contract. The muscles in your upper, middle and lower back are divided into three types: intrinsic/deep muscles, superficial muscles and intermediate muscles. Lower back spasms are more common, but any muscle can contract.
Ice Or Heat And What To Use When
There has always been confusion surrounding heating versus icing injuries. The line has never been drawn on what to use unless you see your doctor, of course.
The truth is, there is a clear line that tells you when to heat and when to ice without going straight to the emergency room. Treatment for an injury is determined by its location and the type of injury sustained. Not only will we explain when to ice and when to heat, but we will also explain why.
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How To Safely Apply Ice And Heat
You can apply ice and heat in lots of ways. Our experts generally recommend up to 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off:
- Ice packs: Frozen peas or corn, ice cubes in a baggie or frozen gel pack. You can ice beyond 48 hours, until swelling, tenderness or inflammation are gone.
- Ice massage: Freeze water in a Dixie cup, peel back the top, and massage the tender area until its numb. .
- Cold masks: Place a cold mask, available at drugstores, over your eyes or lay a towel soaked in cold water over your forehead and temples.
- Moist heat: Enjoy a bath, shower, hot tub or whirlpool using warm, not hot, water .
- Heat wraps: Drape a heat wrap, available at drugstores, around your neck like a scarf .
- Heating pads: To avoid burns, remove heating pads if the area becomes uncomfortably warm.
Should I Use Heat Or Cold For Sciatica
The answer is, it depends. When it comes to using heat or cold for sciatica treatment you must first get the pain properly assessed. Given the two different types of sciatica its essential that you first determine the origin of the pain. Only then will you know whether to use heat or ice to treat your sciatica.
As there are several different condition types that produce sciatic pain so its essential you determine whether it is entrapment or compression first because the conditions are different and theyre treated differently.
If youve got an entrapment type sciatica and youre treating it as compression or vice-versa, then it wont get better. In fact, its more likely to get worse. So use our pain assessment tool to find the likely cause of your pain. Youll get a treatment guide full of expert advice included in the price.
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