Ask someone with back pain what they want and the undeniable first answer is “pain relief”, usually followed by “FAST!” Physicians, hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare professionals usually prescribe hot and cold therapy, and physical therapists commonly use hot and cold therapy in their patients’ treatment.
Hot and cold therapy is non-invasive treatment that has instant results for patients. It can provide pain relief for sinus pressure, headaches, allergies, strains, muscle aches, arthritis, rheumatism pain, fibromyalgia, sciatica and more.
Cold Therapy for Back Pain
In fact, cold packs put on the back of the neck have been shown to even relieve nausea. Cold therapy is particularly effective in reducing inflammation and swelling, while heat therapy is mostly used to help increase blood flow to the muscles. Used together they effectively keep swelling down while encouraging blood flow to heal the cause of the inflammation.
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Using hot and cold therapy is usually used alternately. When used with physical therapy, typically the therapist will use heat to help loosen and warm muscles before exercising and manipulating muscles. After exercise therapy is finished, physical therapists will then use cold packs to sooth tired achy muscles, and lower any swelling that may have occurred.
Heat Therapy For Back Pain
Heat therapy induces something called vasodilation: drawing blood into the target tissues. This means that needed oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the site of injury, and cell wastes are removed. Heat also decreases muscle spasm, relaxes tense muscles, relieves pain, and can increase range of motion. When it’s the back that is in pain, this means movement of all types becomes easier. Cold therapy, or cryotherapy produces vasoconstriction, which slows circulation reducing inflammation, muscle spasm, and pain. Cold therapy should be used for usually less than 15 minutes, and its effects are known last longer than heat.
Neither therapy should be applied directly to the skin. A barrier, such as a towel, should be placed between the cold agent or hot agent and the skin’s surface to prevent skin and nerve damage. Punctured commercial hot or cold packs should be immediately discarded, as the chemical agent/gel will burn skin.
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