How to Use Ice and Heat Therapy for Lower Back PainBy:Jamie Arnold
Ice and heat therapy involves the use of ice and heat to reduce pain and swelling experienced in the back, neck and legs. Because ice and heat therapy doesn't require medication, it is an effective temporary method of self-therapy.
It is important to note that ice and heat therapy doesn't permanently shift bones or ligaments. If you are in pain due to an overgrown or misplaced bone or disc pressing on the spinal cord, ice and heat therapy can act as a natural form of medication that only temporarily relieves pain.
Nevertheless, ice and heat therapy is a form of pain relief that doesn’t require a prescription, and many individuals with back pain use it as their primary pain management tool.
Conditions Treated by Ice and Heat Therapy
Ice and heat therapy can be used to treat the following conditions:
- Back pain
- Muscle spasms
- Pulled muscles
- Other minor back injuries
For more serious conditions such as herniated discs, degenerative joint disease, spinal stenosis and others, ice and heat therapy may help to manage pain. It may even de-stress the body enough for it to heal on its own without requiring surgery.
How Ice and Heat Therapy Works
Ice and heat therapy is a simple process. Follow these instructions:
1.Apply moist heat to the painful area for about 15 minutes. It is important that you don't use a dry heating pad! Simply take a very hot shower or hold the affected area under a stream of hot water. You can also use a moist heat pack or soak in a hot bath. A towel will not hold heat for long enough to be effective. You want a steady application of heat to the area for the entire time.
2. Apply ice to the painful area for about 10 minutes following the application of heat. Ice can be in the form of an ice pack or even a bag of frozen vegetables. Applying cold is important! While it may begin to feel better after some time under heat, if you don't cool it down with ice, it will become inflamed once the heat goes away.
3.Repeat as many times as necessary.
The principles behind ice and heat therapy are vasodilation and vasoconstriction. This causes your blood vessels to enlarge, making the blood flow, relaxing the muscles, and providing necessary nutrients. They then constrict, flexing the muscles and reducing the inflammation that may have caused the pain in the first place.
Additional Tips & Warnings
Ice and heat therapy is easy to do, but you don’t want to overdo it or do it improperly. Before attempting to do it on your own, here are certain things to keep in mind:
- Stop if you experience any discomfort or swelling during the treatment.
- Always place a layer of cloth between skin and heat or ice pack.
- Do not apply heat or ice packs for longer than 20 minutes at a time.
Don’t Forget to See the Doctor
While ice and heat therapy is a practical way to resolve pain at home, it may not offer the long term solutions you need. If you’re experiencing chronic back pain, it’s best to visit a doctor and receive tests in conjunction with ice and heat therapy. They can help you uncover the source of the pain and recommend steps for treatment that work alongside home remedies for solutions.
If you’ve been using ice and heat packs for more than four weeks, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your situation and find a progressive treatment for pain elimination.