Home > Treating Back Pain > Hot and Cold Therapy in Back Pain

Hot and Cold Therapy in Back Pain

By: Suzanne Elvidge BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 19 Sep 2012 |
Hot And Cold Therapy In Back Pain

Something as simple as heat or cold can be helpful for back pain – and the advantages are that it’s generally an easy and cheap form of treatment, with no unpleasant side effects. Unfortunately, there have not been many clinical trials carried out on hot and cold therapy, so there is not much evidence that they do or do not work. If back pain continues for more than a few days, talk to a doctor, nurse or physiotherapist. If gel or liquid packs (whether hot or cold) become punctured, throw them out straight away.

Cold Therapy

Cold therapy (also known as cryotherapy) can help straight after a back injury, as it can reduce the inflammation in the muscles, so reducing pain. Try wrapping an ice pack – a reusable frozen gel pack, or some ice cubes or a bag of peas – in a towel or fabric cover and holding it against the injured muscle for around 10 to 20 minutes at a time, two or three times a day (or more often if it helps). Cold therapy should continue for a few days, until any bruising or swelling goes away. There are also gels, patches and sprays that include cooling ingredients like menthol, and cold compresses (towels or other pieces of fabric dipped in cold or ice water and wrung out) can help too.

It’s best to use cold therapy as soon as possible after the injury. Don’t put anything cold straight against the skin as ice can burn or damage nerves, and allow the area to warm up a little between treatments (around 20 minutes or so) before applying ice again. There are fabric wraps that tie or fix with Velcro around the body and hold a cold pack against the back.

Hot Therapy

Heat can help to relax the muscles and improves the circulation by making the blood vessels dilate (become bigger), and this can ease back pain. Heat sources include:
  • a hot bath or shower
  • a sauna or steam bath
  • a hot water bottle
  • a reusable gel hot pack – these are heated in boiling water or in the microwave (and can usually be frozen as well)
  • a rice or wheat hot pack – these are heated in the microwave
  • a chemical hot pack – these produce heat when the chemicals are activated. They may stick to the body like a large sticking plaster, and are usually only single use
  • an electrical heating pad
  • a heat wrap – a fabric wrap that fastens around the body, containing a hot pack
  • an infra-red heat lamp
  • a hot compress (a towel or other piece of fabric dipped in hot water)
  • gels, creams, patches and sprays that include heating ingredients
Hot packs should be wrapped in a towel or fabric cover to avoid burns. Heat therapy should be applied for a few minutes to a few hours each day. Don’t use heat if muscles are swollen or inflamed, or if there is any bruising.

Make a home-made hot pack by putting rice in an old sock, tying the top off, and heating it in the microwave for a few minutes. Adding a little lavender to the rice will make it even more relaxing.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Micky
    Re: Ligament Damage and Back Pain
    I had prolapse of rectum op in 2001.he also said he had repaired a ligament.cane home couldn't bare down to open bowels.lost…
    21 April 2017
  • Vis
    Re: Spinal Dislocation
    i have enjoyed the literature.
    17 April 2017
  • KFreedOM
    Re: Dehydrated Discs
    I'm so glad to have read this article about dehydration affecting the disc. It just happened to be something that I was curious about and decided…
    26 December 2016
  • Kal
    Re: Dehydrated Discs
    I was suffering from sciatic pain for nearly 1 year and don't have any idea what is the reason for pain. After 1 year 3 weeks back I went to…
    26 November 2016
  • Skb24 going on 75
    Re: Dehydrated Discs
    I am 24 and i have severe back pain i have a buldging disc in my L1 and L5 almost my entire lower lumbar is dehydrated and i have lost nearly 50%…
    21 November 2016
  • billa
    Re: Dehydrated Discs
    I am 25. My mri result shows I hv got dehydration of L4/5 disc.my doctor advice me to take Diclofenac and hv physiotherapy ,but I Still hv pain…
    16 October 2016
  • Salsybar
    Re: Dehydrated Discs
    Hello all Im a newbie on here ...my long road started 4 years ago I had always been a fitness fanatic..vegetarian and look after myself At the…
    14 October 2016
  • Lorie
    Re: Dehydrated Discs
    All dics on mri are dehydrated with bulging at c4 and c5 also L4 and L5 amd an elongated conus medullaris. I have radiculopathy from neck to…
    7 October 2016
  • madan
    Re: Spinal Dislocation
    My father is 51 his spin has dislocated Lower region due to this he suffer pain on his one whole leg suggests me what should we do
    13 September 2016
  • zane
    Re: Spinal Dislocation
    I can literally see one of the nobs(disks or whatever it's called) on my back that is moved to right of my spine and out of line with the rest…
    25 August 2016
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the BackPainExpert website. Please read our Disclaimer.