Back Pain. Heat or Cold?
21 October 2013
I get asked this question often in my clinic. The answer is very dependant on the person and the nature of the injury.
Heat is good for older injuries (chronic pain) or any pain after 2/3 days. This helps get the blood supply into the muscles and helps to muscle to relax and loosen.
Ice is better for acute injuries in the first 6 hours to ease the pain. It has been shown in some research that ice may actually slow the healing process.
As a general rule of thumb, I tell my patients to ice at the start (first day), heat thereafter (second day onwards). Saying this, there are exceptions as with any rule. This is where listening to your body will give you the answer.
If you apply ice or heat and you feel like your pain is getting worse, then remove it immediately and apply the opposite. For example. if you apply heat to your back pain and you feel the pain increasing, remove the heat and apply ice to the area.
With both ice and heat, wrap both items in a light tea towel to avoid burns. Frozen peas can be used as an ice pack and a hot water bottle or wheat bag can be used as a heat pack.
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