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Heat or Ice for Lower Back Pain? Which, When and How!

A person with a back brace | Chiropractic Ann Arbor

Have you ever wondered about the answer to this question?

If you’re like most people who suffer from lower back pain, you would answer “Yes!”

When it Comes to Hot or Cold, here are the Simple Rules

  1. If you suffer from an acute back injury, use only ice until acute pain begins to subside, no matter how many days it takes.
  2. Once acute pain begins to subside, switch to a combination of moist heat and ice until the pain is gone.
  3. For chronic back pain, use a combination of moist heat and ice.

Therapeutic Effect:

Ice = fights swelling and inflammation.
Moist heat = relaxes tight muscles and increases circulation. Combination of moist heat and ice = the best of both worlds, but make sure you always end with ice.

Here’s How to Do It:

Ice – The best way is to use a large frozen gel pack. They stay soft even when frozen, so it contours to the body. They don’t leak, and you can reuse them over and over. The pack should be at least 6” X 8” to cover a big enough area.
Once your pack is cold, wrap it in a thin, dry towel and place it directly on the skin over the area that hurts. Apply for 15-20 minutes, but no longer than 20 minutes. Repeat 3 to 4 times per day during an acute flare up. You can also use ice cubes in a Ziploc bag, or even frozen vegetables.

Moist Heat – The best way to apply heat is through microwaveable bean bags. These are also reusable. You can also spend extra time in the shower or bathtub with hot water on the affected area. Apply for 15-20 minutes, but no longer than 20 minutes. Repeat 3 to 4 times per day during an acute flare up.

Common Questions

“Where do I put the hot or cold?”

Directly on the back or hip where you feel pain. If pain is projecting down your leg, don’t put the ice down there. Keep it on your lower back.

“The ice hurts too much. What should I do?”

Sometimes people can’t tolerate a full 15 minutes of ice. Try 5 minutes or even 2 minutes at a time and reapply it again within a few minutes.

“Should I continue to do it even if it doesn’t seem to be helping?”

Yes. Dr. Thatcher encourages you to try for at least a couple days. Sometimes it takes that long before you start to feel better.

“Do I have to be lying down to apply it?”

No. Lying down is good, but sometimes not practical. Your body position is not as important as being in a position that is as comfortable as possible. You can even apply ice or heat on the go by slipping the pack inside your belt or inside a back brace.

Relieve Your Pain with Chiropractic in Ann Arbor

Have you struggled with pain for years? Chiropractic in Ann Arbor can help!

No one should have to live in pain! At Thatcher Chiropractic & Laser, we believe it’s our duty to relieve your pain. We can help you regain your best spinal health and maintain it, so you can get back to enjoying life.

You’ll be in good hands! Dr. Bill has over 35 years of clinical experience and is an expert in treating musculoskeletal pain.

Schedule your appointment for chiropractic in Ann Arbor today! We take same-day and walk-in appointments for existing patients too!