Using Hot and Cold Packs for Back Pain Relief

Are you participating in our 8-week back pain challenge? Your task for week two is to utilise hot and cold packs for temporary pain relief. Here’s why…

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There are many different ways back pain can be treated. Options for treatment can depend on the type of back pain being experienced. One method which can be used to provide immediate relief is to apply cold or hot packs to the area of pain. This is easy to do at home, but it’s important to know the difference between hot and cold packs and how they work differently to alleviate pain.

Use hot or cold packs for 20 minutes every 1-2 hours

The application of a hot or cold pack is a convenient yet highly effective option for temporary relief of back pain. You can use hot or cold packs in conjunction with other strategies, such as pain medication and exercise, but always speak to your healthcare professional if you have any concerns or doubts.

Using hot or cold packs

Simply apply a hot pack or cold pack to your back and keep it there for 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours during waking hours. Start with a cold pack and avoid applying heat to your back for the first few days after the injury or first pain, since the heat can worsen inflammation. Start on hot packs after two or three days. Note that applying the packs can feel painful at first, but they do help with alleviating pain if you’re patient.

Hot versus cold packs

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Applying hot and cold packs is a great way to soothe a stiff, painful back. Research shows that hot and cold packs can decrease swelling, inflammation, and general discomfort, but also that hot packs are generally more effective than cold packs.

While neither will cure your back pain, using hot or cold can work to minimise pain in several ways. Hot packs bring heat that works to dilate the blood vessels in your back, which in turn can improve oxygen supply levels to the area while reducing muscle spasms. The heat itself can also alter and minimise the sense of pain to reduce discomfort. Due to the impact of hot packs, it’s best to avoid applying them for the first two or three days after your injury or the onset of back pain.

Cold packs, on the other hand, can work to reduce inflammation in your back by decreasing the size of blood vessels and hence the flow of blood to the area. This numbing action helps to temporarily reduce the sense of pain. As with hot packs, cold packs are not a cure for the real cause of your back pain. You can start using cold packs straight away if you experience an injury or the start of back pain.

Choosing the right hot and cold packs

There are various options for both hot and cold packs, and you’ll want to find the most convenient and effective option for you.

Cold packs

The most convenient option for applying a cold pack to your back is probably a commercially-prepared ice pack. These need to be chilled in your freezer before being applied to your back. If you’re in a hurry and don’t have a cold pack on hand, wrap a packet of frozen vegetables or a plastic bag filled with ice in a towel and apply that to your back. It’s advisable to wrap cold packs in a towel before application to protect your skin from the cold.

Hot packs

When it comes to hot packs for your back, consider options such as heating pads, disposable heat wraps, or warm packs. These are widely available from retailers. You simply plug in the pad, position it on your back, and allow it to get to work. Some heating pads come with different heating ranges, so you can choose a hotter setting if you feel it’s more effective.

Warm baths are another great option for applying heat to your back. Run a hot bath and consider using a bath cushion or pillow to support your back in the bath. Other options include steamed towels, saunas, hot water bottles, and moist heat packs.

Remember, it’s best to start on hot packs two or three days after initial pain. Start with the cold packs and then follow up with heat.

Other immediate pain relief options

In addition to using hot or cold packs, you can help back pain by taking a simple pain reliever, such as Herron. Taking a pain reliever can help to reduce inflammation in mild-to-moderate back pain, and enable you to stay active. Do consult your healthcare professional before taking any medications if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, taking other medications, or over the age of 65.

Cold and hot packs are useful options for temporary relief of back pain. They can be used in conjunction with other options such as pain relievers and exercise. Always consult your doctor if you have any doubts about treating your back pain.

Disclaimer: The Herron blog is interested in general community wellbeing and information, and does not imply that Herron products should be used for serious ailments without the advice or recommendation from your healthcare practitioner.

All information presented on the Herron website is meant for general knowledge and never meant as a diagnosis of prescription. Please always contact your doctor for health related matters.