Remember the last time you had trouble deciding using ice or heat for low back pain?
Both heat and cold therapy can be effective in addressing lower back pain.
However, choosing one of the two can be difficult.
Let’s deal with that confusion once and for all. What is better for lower back pain: heat or cold?
Heat and cold therapy aim at stimulating the nerve fibers carrying pain sensation.
Start With Ice Therapy
In case of a new injury, you will notice inflammation and swelling.
And ice could be the right choice in this situation.
You will observe that cold therapy will minimize your inflammation and swelling.
Moreover, ice is known to control tissue damage.
How to apply ice?
If you have been using a frozen bag of vegetables or a frozen towel, you know the drill already.
However, those things do not stay in place.
And often leave a mess.
A better option is to use cold gel packs.
Make sure you do not use cold therapy for more than 20 minutes at a time.
Else, you run the risk of ice burn.
How often can you apply cold therapy?
Try to use cold therapy no more than 8-10 times a day.
Heat therapy aims at increasing blood flow to the affected area, thus relaxing your muscle fibers.
Heat also prevents the transmission of pain signals to your brain.
Heat therapy includes moist heat and dry heat.
Hot baths, steamed towels, and moist heating packs are all examples of moist heat therapy.
Electric heating pads and saunas, on the other hand, constitute dry heat therapy.
Which one is better?
It depends on you!
Some people respond better to moist heat while others enjoy dry heat.
You can use a variety of stuff to apply heat therapy- electric heating pads, heated gel packs, heat wraps, steam bath, and sauna.
Avoid applying heat if the affected area is swollen or bruised.
Cold therapy is a better option in that case.
There are conditions when you can use either heat or cold therapy.
These include knee pain, lower and upper back pain, neck stiffness and muscle aches/spasms.