Sometimes, using either heat or ice treatment is not enough – therefore, one needs to combine the two for relief.   |  Photo Credit: iStock Images
- Back pain is an extremely common condition these days for people across age groups – from adolescents to young and older adults.
- Although lower back pain is short-lived – lasting four to 12 weeks – however, if it persists for over 12 weeks, it is known as chronic pain.
- Back pain can sometimes extend to affect the muscles, tendons, discs, vertebrae, and ligaments.
New Delhi: Back pain is an extremely common condition these days for people across age groups – from adolescents to young and older adults. Although lower back pain is short-lived – lasting four to 12 weeks – however, if it persists for over 12 weeks, it is known as chronic pain. Some of the key causes of lower back pain include:
- A big or minor slip
Back pain can sometimes extend to affect the muscles, tendons, discs, vertebrae, and ligaments. And when it comes to lower-back pain, there is a never-ending debate around whether one should go for ice or heat treatment for relief and recovery. Putting an end to this debate, we’ll help you differentiate between cold and heat therapy, the duration for which you need the treatment, and how to get maximum benefits from it.
Cold therapy for back pain
In general, it is advisable to apply ice treatment to the pain when pain is acute – straight after an injury. According to the Arthritis Foundation, this can help get relief from the pain for two days after the injury. If one develops pain after exercising, cold therapy again offers relief.
Experts say that lowering body temperature constricts blood vessels, decreases inflammation, reduces swelling, and has a numbing effect on pain. For this, one can use an ice pack for about 10-20 minutes a few times throughout the day. Wrap the ice pack in a towel to protect your skin, and avoid contact for too long.
Heat therapy for back pain
Heat therapy is recommended for chronic back pain. Experts suggest the continuous application of low-level heat for chronic back pain. Wrap a heating blanket around the lower back – a heating pad can also be helpful for symptoms like painful muscle spasms triggered by strains and sprains. Muscle spasms can tense up muscles and the application of heat can help loosen them up.
Cold and heat treatment for back pain
Sometimes, using either heat or ice treatment is not enough – therefore, one needs to combine the two for relief. Experts say that in this case, one should use cold first and then apply heat for acute back pain. Doctors recommend doing this for 48 hours to relax the muscles and soothe the areas where the pain is worst. Heat then stimulates blood supply to the lower back which drives healing nutrients to injured tissues. For improved tissue healing, heat therapy should be used intermittently for multiple hours and days. A heating pad or hot water bottle can help for several hours and days – however, one must be mindful about the temperature and avoid using the same for over 20 to 30 minutes at a time.
What to do if the pain persists?
In some cases, the pain is likely to linger on even after heat and ice therapy. In this case, instead of going for over-the-counter medication, one should check with a medical expert to be sure if steroid injections or physiotherapy are needed.
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.