Back Pain – Ice vs Heat
If you’re someone who is confused by this question, there is no need to worry. You’re not the only one!!
This question often confuses many people when it comes to back pain. There are adverts on TV daily, offering the right option to help resolve your back pain and it can leave people lost in the middle.
It is also one of the most common questions asked by ProSport Physiotherapy clients on a weekly, even daily basis.
More often than not, our clients tend to favour heat – a hot water bottle, a soak in the bath or one of those heated wheat bags to ease their pain This is hardly surprising as we live in Yorkshire and it is particularly cold this time of year.
Allow me to explain to you the ideal times and scenarios for using Ice and Heat with back pain.
When to use Ice
There is only one time in particular when we say to use ice and that is when something has just happened and its likely very painful, warm and potentially swollen. This is what we term an ‘acute’ injury, meaning it just happened.
The ideal time to use ice with your back is when your pain has very suddenly just come on. Your body is very clever and when you intially injure something your body will try its best to protect itself. This is why you get swelling and it becomes hot and painful, through the process of inflammation.
The pain as a result of inflammation can tend to be worse than the actual injury itself, so cooling it down with ice is a simple method to help ease the intensity of the pain as soon as possible. By using the cool ice little and often (20 minutes every hour) the cooling and warming of the injury will help the blood keep flowing around the area to allow it to heal quicker.
When to use Heat
The perfect time to apply heat is when you feel more stiff, achy and need to get things moving. First thing on a morning if your back is feeling really stiff and tight, a hot shower works wonders. Follow that with some gentle stretching and you’ll feel the difference.
Typically if its something thats been nagging you for some time (we term this chronic) and its more stiff and achy rather than painful then heat is the way to go.
Like anything, you warm it up and it becomes more supple. its exactly the same with your joints and muscles. Joints and muscles should be able to move, but if they’re tight and stiff we put ourselves at increased risk of injury.
Its for the exact same reason that we warm up before we play sport or run – so we dont have an injury. When we sleep, our muscles effectively cool down as our blood is being re-directed to our organs, the parts of the body needing it most at the time. So if you have a long standing achy back, why not warm up first thing in the morning to get ready for the day.
This can consist of a warm shower followed by some basic stretches to finish off.