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Back Pain Treatments: Hot and Cold Treatments

Hot and cold treatments for back pain are great for patients, because they are cheap, safe, and can be done around the house, and with things that are available around the house. Generally, hot treatments are designed to increase blood and lymphatic circulation to achy muscles and joints. Cold treatments are designed to reduce inflammation to that feel hot and painful. Hot and cold treatments can temporarily reduce back pain and stiffness. Cold treatments can be done with cold packs (available from companies such as Chattnoga, Chillow, and Mueller) can numb the painful area and reduce inflammation and swelling. Cold treatments are especially good for back pain caused by injuries. The application of hot treatments or heat to injured areas, stimulate blood circulation and relaxes the muscles.

Heat and cold can be applied to painful or sore areas of the back in a number of ways. Cold treatments may be applied without the need for any specialty devices, if you have ice or frozen vegetables at home. You may apply cold therapy with ice under a towel, though the process may take longer for the towel to get cold enough to provide benefits. For added convenience, you may apply cold therapy with a commercially available cold pack that can be used repeatedly, by storing it in your freezer when it isn't in use. Frozen bags of vegetables and other contents from the refrigerator may work just as well, though you should be careful not to freeze your skin. When using ice or frozen bags from the refrigerator, you should have a separate these items from your skin with a towel.



Heat may be moist or dry. Moist heat sources include hot baths, brief stays in hot tubs, or the application of moist washcloths soaked in warm water. If you use a hot tub for your wet hot treatments, do not exceed your time in the water by more that 15-20 minutes. Dry heat sources include heating pads or heat lamps.

Before using either heat or cold, make sure that your skin is clean and dry and doesn't have any significant cuts or scratches on it. Don't use either of these treatments is you have visible wounds that haven't healed yet or deep scratches. After using heat or cold, carefully dry your skin and check for any obvious indications that you applied the treatment for doo long. Some indications that you used the hot or cold treatments for too long include redness or purplish-red skin, hives, or sensitivity or pain when touching the treated area of the skin. If there are any indications of overuse of this treatment, wait for your skin to clear up or return to normal temperature before using heat or cold again.

Here are some other suggestions on how to use these hot and cold treatments properly, so that you don't damage the skin or underlying tissue.
  • Don't use either of these two treatments for more than 15-20 minutes at a time.
  • Avoid using either treatments at extreme temperatures that would be harmful to the body, such as those that could produce burns of frostbite.
  • Don't out anything on the skin before starting a hot or cold treatment, such as oils, lotions, or creams.