Ice or Heat for Back Pain - Which One To Choose?

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Back pain is quite a common experience for people of all age groups. Topical analgesics and ice and heat therapy for back pain are considered effective treatment measures, but how should one decide whether to use ice or heat therapy? 

Deciding whether ice or heat is better for back pain is tricky. Consider the source or origin of the pain and the root cause of it to identify which temperature therapy method is most beneficial for you. 

Sometimes the answer to the debate about heat or cold for back pain is both. Heat or ice for back pain in combination is recommended for people with an active lifestyle to manage potential back pain. 

Before starting the workout, apply a hot compress on the back muscles to help relax them and prepare for movement. A good 10 to 15 minutes of heat therapy is generally sufficient. 

After cooling down and stretching, use an ice pack to help soothe sore muscles. One may apply the ice pack or cold compress immediately after working out or later in the day. 

When to use an ice pack for back pain? 

Ice Pack for back pain reduces inflammation in the muscles and relaxes them. Ice shrinks the blood vessel lumen limiting the blood flow to the soft tissues. Controlling blood flow helps in pain relief and reduces irritating chemicals flowing to the pain site. These irritating chemicals are natural and essential responses to inflammation and pain; however, limiting them and keeping them in check can efficaciously control the pain. Health conditions that benefit from ice therapy - 

  • Acute back pain: Ice for back pain is an effective pain reliever for anybody dealing with lower back pain—the cold aids in easing the strain and tension in the muscles. In case of lower back pain caused due to a back injury, apply an ice pack within two days of the injury. 
  • Sciatica: Sciatica is the pain felt in the sciatic nerve that radiates in the lower back traveling down through the buttocks and the legs. Immediate application of cold therapy during a sciatica flare-up reduces pain and inflammation. Cold therapy may also help reduce muscle spasms related to sciatica. 

How to apply Ice? 

Cold therapy includes massaging the paining area with ice massage gel and rubbing chunks of ice wrapped in a washcloth over the affected area. A makeshift cold compress or a bag of frozen veggies could also help. It is recommended to wrap the ice pack or the cold compress in a thin washcloth before applying it on the back to avoid prolonged skin damage or burns. Use an ice pack for back pain for not more than 20 minutes at a stretch. 

Ice Therapy for back pain 

1. Sammons Preston Black Polyurethane X-Tra Durable Cold Packs 

Sammons Preston Black Polyurethane X-Tra Durable Cold Packs

Sammons Preston Black Polyurethane X-Tra Durable Cold Packs are designed for personal or professional cold therapy. These soft, pliable cold packs are freezable and remain cold for up to 30 minutes. This durable black cold pack for back pain features a wipe-clean surface for sanitation and shared use. 


Sammons Preston Black Polyurethane X-Tra Durable Cold Packs Customer Reviews

4.5 Star Reviews on Sammons Preston Black Polyurethane X-Tra Durable Cold Packs [10 Reviews]

05/23/20 by Kristin C. ”Cold pack great for the neck also can be used for the back easy to use. "

2. Sammons Preston Cold Pacs 

Sammons Preston Cold Pacs

The soft and pliable Sammons Preston Cold Packs offer support and relief from burning pain caused due to bruises and minor sprains or strains. Sammons Preston Ice Pack for Back Pain is available in various sizes that conform to the individual's body shape. Reusable ice packs retain the cool temperature for up to 30 minutes and are safe for users with latex allergies. 


Sammons Preston Cold Pacs Customer Reviews

5 Star Reviews on Sammons Preston Cold Pacs [7 Reviews]

01/14/20 by Helene M. ”This cold pac does work well. The quality is sturdy for long term use and easily kept in the freezer .. "

3. Aircast Back Cuff 

Aircast Back/Hip/Rib Cryo/Cuff

The anatomic cuff design of the Aircast Back Pain Ice Cuff is ideal for complete coverage of the affected area. It offers measured compression for patient comfort, and controlled cold eliminates the risk of tissue damage. The Aircast cuff helps reduce swelling and pain. The detachable cooler allows for uninterrupted treatment. 


Aircast Back/Hip/Rib Cryo/Cuff Customer Reviews

5 Star Reviews on Aircast Back/Hip/Rib Cryo/Cuff [1 Reviews]

02/05/20 by Ray S. ”exactly what i ordered .. "

When is Heat Therapy for Back Pain used? 

Whether or not heat therapy is good for back pain depends on the type of back pain you are dealing with. If the back pain and discomfort are chronic, i.e., lasting for four or more weeks, heat therapy helps relax the tissues and decrease the frequency of pain signals sent to the brain. Subsequently, heat also encourages blood vessels in the back to dilate and promotes healing. 

How to apply heat? 

Heat therapy, much like cold therapy, is quite a versatile treatment with a plethora of options to explore. But while applying heat for back pain, it is important to protect the skin. Refrain from using the heat packs if it's too hot to touch. Moreover, avoid leaving the heat wrap on the body for too long. 

1. Adhesive Heat Wraps 

Heat wraps are worn underneath the clothing for a safe, low-impact heat flow for hours. Carex Bed Buddy Moist Heat Back Wrap is a soft and luxurious adhesive wrap for heat therapy for back pain and treats tired and sore muscles with the instant soothing warmth of moist heat. It offers both hot and cold therapy with a flexible form-fitting design and is flexible even when cold. It ensures complete comfort and mobility along with soft touch material and an adjustable strap secured in various body positions. 

2. Electric Heating Pad 

Heating pads are plugged into the wall and offer a constant heat source to help ease back pain. The best heating pad for back helps control the temperature and sets a timer, ensuring that the heat pad is not left on the back for too long. Thermotech Digital Medical Grade Heating Pad offers moist heat treatments without adding water. During the healing process, a moist heating pad for back has proven most effective in easing pain, reducing stiffness, and increasing circulation. 

3. Hot Water Bottle 

Hot water bottles also offer heat for back pain. Wrap a light washcloth around the back if it is too hot to touch with bare hands. The Fabrication Hot Water Bottle is used to offer warmth, typically while in bed, but also for the application of heat to specific parts of the body. 

Using Heat and Ice Therapy: Things to Remember 

Having both therapies at your disposal to treat back pain is always considered beneficial. A person with an active lifestyle or a habit of working out in the morning may keep an electric heating pad beside their bed, use it on the back muscles, and then start their morning routine.  

1. Cardinal Health Jack Frost Insulated Hot and Cold Gel Packs 

Cardinal Health Insulated Reusable Hot And Cold Gel Packs

Cardinal Health Jack Frost Insulated Hot and Cold Gel Packs are reusable gel packs ideal for recurring hot and cold therapy needs. The one-sided insulation directs therapy to the intended area while reducing temperature loss. 


Cardinal Health Insulated Reusable Hot And Cold Gel Packs Customer Reviews

5 Star Reviews on Cardinal Health Insulated Reusable Hot And Cold Gel Packs [5 Reviews]

08/10/20 by Joy K. ”Stays ice cold for hours. Very flexible and easy to mold and manipulate the gel to shape around the ankle. Happy with purchases. "

2. Core Soft Comfort CorPak Hot and Cold Therapy TriSectional Pack 

Core Soft Comfort CorPak Hot and Cold Therapy TriSectional Pack

Core Soft Comfort CorPak Hot and Cold Therapy Pack for back pain helps treat strains, sprains, and tendonitis. It is made from non-toxic, biodegradable gel inside soft, frost-free covers. Cold therapy constricts blood vessels, decreases blood flow, and promotes healing by reducing swelling. Heat therapy increases blood flow to the area to help relax muscles and decrease pain. 


Core Soft Comfort CorPak Hot and Cold Therapy TriSectional Pack Customer Reviews

5 Star Reviews on Core Soft Comfort CorPak Hot and Cold Therapy TriSectional Pack [4 Reviews]

09/18/21 by Deborah. ”I used this for neck and shoulder pain. When my step mother had knee replacement I gave it to her because it easily wrapped around her knee. This is the best soft ice pack I've found. Highly recommend It!. "

3. Aquacel Hot and Cold Relief Pad 

Aquacel Hot and Cold Relief Pad

Aquacel Hot and Cold Relief Pad are used to reduce pain and promote muscle relaxation using moist, conductive heat. It is a non-electric, non-chemical, portable heating unit that can be heated in a microwave oven and will remain hot for over an hour, providing safe, uniform heat with no hot spots and no cord. It is constructed with cushioned internal foam and can be folded or rolled to support the body. 


Aquacel Hot and Cold Relief Pad Customer Reviews

5 Star Reviews on Aquacel Hot and Cold Relief Pad [2 Reviews]

08/05/15 by John R.”Really great for frozen back muscles . "

Keep cold packs for back pain ready in the freezer whenever lower back pain surfaces. Cold showers and hot baths are also beneficial ways of enhancing the heat or ice for back pain. Use a washcloth or a paper towel while using ice or heat for back pain or even both in a combination. 


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