ICE OR HEAT FOR BACK PAIN???
Today’s blog post is about a something chiropractors get asked daily. “Should I use ice or heat for my pain?” Great question, the answer however, it depends.(Unless you're a Husky, then its always ice) Today I will break it down into a few scenarios. The main difference is timing. Let’s get started!
Scenario 1: “I just hurt my back today, its very sore. Should I use Ice or Heat?!?”
In this case you would use Ice. Why? Timing. The research goes back and forth on if inflammation reduction using ice is the best route to take. The research chosen states that icing acute injuries, (0-4 days) typically 20 minutes on 20 minutes off several times throughout the day, is the best option. Ice lowers the bodies temperature, this constricts your blood vessels which will then decrease inflammation, swelling and eventually numb the area some. Be careful not to get the skin too cold for extended periods of time as this can cause skin damage. CBAN is the acronym for the stages of cold. COLD BURNING ACHING NUMB
Pro Tip: Don’t ice for more than 20 minutes. What happens is the tissue gets too cold and that can have a detrimental effect!
Scenario 2: “Doc, my back has been getting better since you started working on me, my range of motion has improved… but I still have some pain when bending to tie my shoes. It has been a week should I use ice or heat?!?
Answer is this case? Heat. This stage of healing is considered “subacute” (5-14 days). Low level constant heat is best and works to widen the blood vessels. This causes more blood flow to increase the movement of lactic acid and other detrimental substances away from the sore muscles. Heat can also make muscles more elastic, which allows a better stretch. Nerve endings can be stimulated during the heating process which may help block some pain signals(nociceptive fibers).
Pro Tip: Moist heat works great; hot showers and warm wash clothes are great modalities. Heat pads work well too, just make sure you are not causing these to get too hot. If the temperature is above 140 degrees, the skin can receive irreversible skin damage after just 5 seconds. So Be careful.
Other Scenarios: Delayed onset muscle soreness from lifting: My recommendation. Just one set of ice, note that icing after a workout has not been proven to help athletic performance in many studies.
Stiffness: If you are stiff and sore especially in the mornings, use a constant heat modality to help loosen muscle and get a good stretch in afterwards.
Hopefully today’s blog post can help you decide which option is right for your specific needs. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us at Smith Family Chiropractic and we will be glad to help!