Nursing chronic back pain or acute inflammation with hot and cold therapy is perhaps one of the oldest, simplest, and most comforting ways to soothe discomfort.
Typically, heat is most effective for relaxing chronically sore muscles, while ice best calms down inflammation that occurs from an acute injury. If you’d like to try both, alternating heat and cold may offer your back precisely what it needs to feel good again.
1. Hot therapy
One easy way to apply heat to your back is by using an electric heating pad for 15 to 20 minutes. This provides a dry heat, however, which is less effective than a wet heat.
For wet heat, taking a steamy bath or shower sometimes helps. If you’re lucky to have a hut tub nearby, soak in it for up to 15 minutes. Alternatively, saturating a towel with hot water and applying the cloth to your back for 15 or 20 minutes might do the trick. If a towel sounds too messy, try a heat pack. These handy items, sold at drug stores, draw their heat from hot water. Once heated, placing the pack on your back for 15 or 20 minutes should reduce your back pain.
2. Cold therapy
Cold therapy is best for reducing inflammation in injured or arthritic muscles. Methods of applying cold to an aching back include placing an ice pack on the sore area. Be sure to wrap the ice pack in a towel to avoid irritating your skin.
Wetting a towel with cold water and then placing ice inside to keep the cloth cold also makes an effective cold pack. Ice stuffed into a sealable, plastic bag and placed inside a towel could work, as could a frozen back of vegetables if you’re really in a pinch. You can also ice the area three times each day for 15 minutes. If you’ve just experienced an injury, ice every two or three hours for about three days.
3. Alternate hot and cold
Incorporating both hot and cold therapy into your self-care routine for back pain could help you find the relief you’re looking for. To try this method, apply heat for 15 minutes, wait several hours, and then apply cold for 15 minutes. You may even try alternating a cold bath with a hot bath for full-body submersion. Changing temperatures on your body so quickly may reduce any swelling and associated pain, however be careful not to shock your body with widely different temperatures.
What hot or cold methods have you tried for alleviating back pain?
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