Heat therapy for lower back pain
Nearly 80% of adults have or will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. How common this issue is can be traced to how easily you can injure your lower back, with bad posture and sedentary lifestyles being leading causes. And a call for action requires something quick and simple, such as heat therapy, which relaxes your muscles and eases the pain.
Causes and symptoms of back pain
Back pain can range from muscle pain to shooting, burning, or stabbing pain. Bending, twisting, lifting weights, standing, or walking can aggravate the situation. The back is composed of a complex structure of muscles, ligaments, tendons, disks, and bones, which work together to support the body and enable us to move around. Problems with any of these components can lead to back pain. Damage can result from strain, medical conditions, and poor posture, among others.
Most of us are guilty of at least some of the causes:
- Bad posture, which harms the spine;
- Being overweight;
- Sedentary lifestyle;
- Health issues.
The symptoms are easy to detect:
- Pain during movement and activity;
- Dull aching pain in lower back, buttocks, and legs;
- Weakness or numbness.
Is heat really good for lower back pain, and why?
Heating lower back pain is an excellent route since it improves circulation, decreases inflammation, and lessens the pain’s intensity. This makes you less stiff and better able to move around. A pain-free increased range of motion will temporarily drastically improve your condition. The improved blood flow can also aid in quickening the healing process. The alleviated pressure can better allow you to stretch and exercise as well.
How to apply heat on your back pain
Useful and healthy ways of heating lower back pain include taking a hot bath, sitting in a Jacuzzi, applying a heat pack or wrap, using heated blankets or towels, sitting in hot rooms, especially saunas, getting hot stones applied, and many more. The point remains the same; you can find whatever works best for you and your condition.
Working heat therapy products
Heat therapy products can be incredibly varied. This is a great thing as it offers flexibility to fit every need.
1. Heated rooms
If your range of motion is very limited, try heating your room. Visit a sauna or sweat lodge if you can move around a bit. Please note that a prolonged stay in a very hot room is not advisable as it may cause dizziness, weakness, and even fainting.
2. Hot baths
Taking a hot bath of any kind can help alleviate your symptoms. However, the water temperature cannot be controlled and maintained effectively, making this option less desirable. But the ease and accessibility, and relaxation it offers make it a sought-after option by many.
3. Electrically heated wraps and packs
The most common options are heated blankets, but you may also find pads and pillows. These are a great way to avoid the stiffness you could experience in your back or joints after sleeping, but the effect they offer is not very localized. The great thing about them is their ability to accurately control the temperature.
4. Re-usable heat packs
These often come in a gel form that you can heat and apply to a specific area that hurts. They are specific and maintain their hot temperature for extended periods of time.
5. Infrared heating wraps
Radiation is used to target deeper muscle layers in a shorter amount of time. Infrared energy penetrates through several layers of skin and reaches deep muscles and nerves. The cells of the body absorb energy and become more active. Blood flow to the area is increased, and cell regeneration is accelerated, which will help reduce inflammation. But please watch your condition, because intense heat can also increase menstrual bleeding.
6. Chemically heated packsThis is also about heat therapy. These can be single-use or multi-use, and they produce a chemical reaction that releases the heating effect. The disadvantage of this heating pad is that you cannot control the temperature. It always heats up to a certain temperature, which can reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hot or cold pack for back pain: what helps better?
If you are wondering whether a hot or cold pack for back pain works best, then the answer is both; it simply depends on when you sustained your injury.
Heat therapy may use hot water bottles, heating pads, or warm baths. Cold therapy includes ice packs, cool water, or cold compresses. However, confusion can arise as to which types of pain and conditions require hot therapy and which require cold therapy. In some cases, using both can be a successful combination. Remember one rule: heat is used for chronic pain, cold for acute pain (injury or inflammation).
Applying cold support to a recent injury reduces the initial inflammation and eases the pain. After the initial couple of days, you might find that heat therapy works better to alleviate both mild and intense pain, relax the muscles, and initiate healing.
Potential risks of heat and ice treatment
Utilizing heat or cold therapy for too long can hurt you in the short and long term.
Risks associated with extended use of cold treatment include a cold rash, frostbite, nerve damage, hypothermia, cardiac stress, and even exacerbating your high blood pressure problems.
Risks associated with prolonged use of heat therapy include burns, skin irritation, dehydration, and fetal defects during pregnancy. Some useful takeaway tips are to never use hot or cold items directly on your skin and to use them in moderation.
When you definitely should visit a doctor not to make it worse
Consult your doctor when you notice any exacerbations or degenerations in your physical condition rather than alleviations if heat and cold therapy do not help, if you have burned yourself or had any complications from using the heat/cold therapy, or if you feel completely immobile where simple activities like attempting to eat or even walking are excruciating.
How to prevent lower back problems
With just a few lifestyle changes, the health of your lower back can improve drastically, which can lessen the instances of injuries or pain that you will experience.
1. Simple lifestyle changes
Eating healthier food, avoiding nicotine and alcohol, prioritizing hydration, and getting more active overall can take you a long way to preventing lower back pain.
2. Adequate rest and sleep
Restorative rest or sleep is necessary after any activity that involves significantly straining your back muscles.
3. Exercise your muscles
Exercising your core muscles and stretching your hamstrings are perfect methods of strengthening your involved muscles, making them less prone to injury and pain.
4. Lift properly
When lifting heavy and even light weights, adopt a good posture that does not cause any injury or stress on the discs of your spine.
Break the cycle!
Regardless of your age and line of work, you have probably experienced lower back pain by now, and you probably understand how disabling and painful it can be. Now you can break the cycle with the tips you have just learned to prevent the pain from returning! And if it does happen for one reason or another, experiment with the different heat and cold therapies and find which one will do wonders for you!