Ice or Heat for Back Pain Relief?

When back pain first strikes, most people reach for an ice bag to help ease pain. Is this the best option? Some will tell you heat is best, which is it and what is the best ways to apply these methods?


The Back Pain Cycle

When pain occurs whether it is an acute episode or a flare up of a chronic condition, there is a pain-spasm cycle that develops.

The pain/spasm cycle usually begins with the injury stimulating the sensory nerves in a particular area of the body. These nerves transmit the signal to the brain, where it is interpreted as pain. The brain then sends a signal back to the affected area telling the muscles to contract, in an effort to protect the painful area from further harm.

If the muscles don't relax, the blood supply is reduced as the vessels are squeezed by the muscle contraction. This creates a build up of toxins in the area and inflammation develops as the fluid is not removed from the area.

This process will repeat as the pain remains, further sending of signals to the brain and the resultant inflammation, poor blood supply and even the development of trigger points.


How can you break this Pain-Spasm Cycle?

This is where the confusion lies in which is best - ice or heat?

Applying heat to the area will allow blood supply to return and helps in the removal of the blood wastes. But heat will also cause the increase of inflammation as it raises the temperature and the body's response is to produce inflammation.

Ice will reduce inflammation as it cools the area, works well for pain relief as it calms the nerves, but slows circulation and hence allows for muscle contraction to occur and the metabolic wastes to remain.

This is why the application of both heat and ice is best. By using both you can both stimulate the circulation, reduce inflammation and pain, and kick start the healing process.


What is the best way to use Heat/Ice?

Ice is best used crushed as it gives a better surface coverage, place a wet towel over the area in pain and place the ice pack on for 10 minutes. The towel prevents any irritation or cold-burn to the skin.

Heat is best the same way, a heat pack that is soft will allow good contact with the area, again a wet towel helps with the transference of heat to the area.

Both are best to be used for 10 minutes, that way you get the benefits without starting the ill effects of both modalities.


Ice and Heat for Back Pain Relief

In those first 48 hours, time is critical. If you can apply both ice and heat frequently through the day, you will see great benefits. Try to get ice on initially as fast as possible in those acute situations.

But in those first 48 hours start with ice for ten minutes followed by heat for ten minutes. Repeat this three times, but finish with an ice application. This means ice-heat-ice-heat-ice.

That way you finish with ice which will aid the anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effects.

There are many other ways to ease the pain that can also benefit, click the following links to learn more:

However, once that first 48 hours has ended, you need to go further...


And after 48 hours...

Once pain has eased, continue on with the ice and heat application. But now is the time to make sure your spine is balanced, and that trigger points have eased. All back and neck pain is due to the formation of spinal imbalances hat have occurred from the many daily tasks you perform.

As you lift, bend, carry and even have prolonged postures, muscles and joints will tire and tighten. They will then pull your spine out of alignment and create spinal imbalances. These build tension over weeks, months or even longer ... until one day you perform an activity and you have acuter pain.

Ice and heat will help these flare-ups or episodes, but you should still identify which imbalances you have.

Detecting imbalances is the only vital skill you should learn. This is why we teach it free of charge, it is that essential. Simply click the link below to learn more about how to detect your imbalances and to rebalance your spine...


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