Ice or heat packs for acute back pain?
Back Pain reponse to heat packs (wheat or lupin bags) and ice packs FlexEze or Hotteze)
The Cochrane Research Foundation found moderate evidence to support the use of low-level continuous warmth (longer than one hour) rather than ice, to ease acute low back pain. Heat is also more beneficial than Paracetamol or Anti-inflammatory medication for some people. The study compared overnight stick on heat (FlexEze or Hotteze) lasting 8-12 hours with wheat or lupin hot packs that need reheating.
A further benefit of a wrap around heat pack is that it helps you to stay up and moving, before resting and and then reapplying the pack.
Why does heat help back pain?
- Heat is a positive feeling and counteracts some of the pain you are sensing
- It inhibits nociceptive temperature sensitive nerve cells in the pathways to the brain
- Warmth relaxes tense muscles
- Superficial Heat does not penetrate your deep tissues so is not increasing pahtology temperature
- What we percieve as pain is really changes in sensation and how your brain reacts to that feel (i.e. your “Thought Viruses” that may be saying). THe faster you ge some relief the less time you have for negative thought viruses to multiple and catastorphise.
When should I use ice for an injury?
Ice is useful for acute injuries where tissue is traumatised and damaged. wo that blood vessel leakage occurs. Ice is therefore the treatment of choice for sprains and bruising for the first 24 to 48 hours. Ice contracts the blood vessels and limits the reactive swelling.
Reference: A Cochrane review of superficial heat or cold for low back pain. Spine 2006 31(9)