Knowing how to treat an back injury can be hard to figure out. While a broken bone obviously requires a trip to the hospital, other injuries could need everything from rest to surgery. One important element in the self-care part of your recovery or general pain management is knowing whether to use heat or ice when trying to soothe your pain. Both can be useful for reducing pain, but they are not often interchangeable. Knowing which to use can help improve how you feel and prevent possible damage from incorrect treatment. Here are a few guidelines as to which is better for your back, depending on the cause of the pain you are experiencing:
When to Apply Heat
Use heat for tightness. Spine Health says heat can help with muscle tension caused by strains and overexertion, and heat can be helpful for chronic pain. And if you’re going to use heat, WebMD recommends moist heat such as hot packs, hot showers, and hot baths over dry heat, as well as to never use heating pads on “high.” Spine Health also cautions against using heat on bruised areas.
When to Apply Ice
Both Healthline and WebMD recommend using ice for inflammation. Ice can be helpful for acute injuries and, according to ABC News, for cooling down muscles after exercise. Don’t use ice for tight muscles. As PainScience.com points out, “Ice can aggravate muscle spasms and trigger points, which are often present in low back and neck pain — the very condition people often try to treat with ice.” Ice could make your tense muscles contract more, so you want to be sure about whether you’re dealing with swollen or tight muscles. Additionally, make sure you don’t leave the ice in contact with skin too long. WebMD recommends 10 minutes every hour for the first 72 hours after an injury and 15 to 20 minutes, 3 times a day after that point.
When Heat or Ice Isn’t Enough
While both heat and ice can help, they aren’t replacements for medical treatment if that’s what your body needs. If applying heat or ice isn’t cutting it and you are seeking physical therapy for your back, Charlotte Chiropractic is here to help with your spinal issues. Contact us to learn more about our back pain treatment options.