A question a lot of people have about back pain injuries is whether to use hot or cold to treat it. A very good question to ask since there are a couple of factors to consider. Lets look at when to use hot or cold for back pain, and what each do to help
Most people know to apply cold when they are first injured. The cold not only eases the pain, but will help prevent excess swelling. This is a really good idea since excess swelling can prolong recovery.
How the Body Deals with Injury
Swelling is actually good for injuries. It prevents the area from moving around which could make the injury worse, and it it brings nutrients to the area in the form of more blood flow. This extra nutrition includes factors that increase inflammation in the area. It is not always good to have that continue long term. Even if an ice pack is applied the area will still get healing nutrients while swelling is limited.
After a few days, injuries tend to calm down somewhat. The swelling has done its job, and the real healing process can start. There will likely still be some pain, but the initial inflammation has stopped. In this case, applying heat to the area is the best thing to do.
Heat increases blood flow as well as soothing an older injury. The increased blood flow allows blood flow that will clear the old swelling. Some movement is also a good idea because this will increase blood flow as well. But, when do you stop cold and start using heat for back pain?
When to Use Heat and When to Use Cold
The general guideline is to apply cold immediately after an injury, and to continue it for a few days. Heat is best used a few days after the injury.
One of the best ways to know when to start applying heat is by the kind of pain experienced. When the pain is sharp then cold is best. It’s time to switch to heat when the pain is dull.
Apply Heat or Cold to Only the Injured Area
One thing to consider is how to apply heat or cold to an injury. The main thing is that they need to be applied directly to the injury. General applications won’t have the same effect at all. For example, soaking in a hot tub will not be of much help for lower back pain.
When heat or cold is applied to a specific areas the result is localized. In our example, if heat is applied to the entire body in a hot tub, the entire body will be affected. The benefit of heat is that it causes an expansion of the blood vessels and tissue in the area where it is applied. If the entire body is heated the expansion will occur everywhere leaving no net effect on the injury.
A hot bath can have a generally good effect on an older injury. For one thing they are very relaxing. Another benefit is that a hot bath is very detoxifying which might offer a little help in eliminating leftover inflammation factors.
What to Use to Apply Heat or Cold
A hot or cold cloth won’t hold the temperature very long. For cold, ice in a plastic bag works well, a bag of frozen peas even better. But, one of the best products you can get is a pack that can be heated or frozen for cold. IceWraps is one of the best products that I’ve found so far. I particularly like this one:
Click on the photo to see this wrap. Click on their logo to see other products.
They do have others that I’ve used, but the convenience of the velcro wraps is worth the extra money.
You can keep them in the freezer for when needed, and they can easily go into the microwave for heat in a hurry.
Whatever you use, keep something in the freezer ready to help reduce swelling as soon as possible if injured.
Be sure to post this to your social network so your friends can benefit from this information.