Low Back Pain: An Ice Pack or Hot Tub?

Many patients perform some form of self-care when they first hurt their lower back, hoping it will keep them out of the doctor’s office. While home remedies can sometimes make the pain go away, other times, they do not.

When a nerve in the low back becomes pinched or irritated, the body will protect the delicate nerves by keeping you from moving and risking further nerve injury. The easiest way for the body to do this is to cause the back muscles to spasm in the injured area.

Muscle pain can be quite severe and heat can sometimes soothe the pain. For this reason, many patients take to the heating pad or to the hot tub to try to get some relief. This should be avoided in an acute injury because inflammation is present. With inflammation, there is increased heat and any additional heat you provide is like adding gasoline to a fire.

A better choice with an acute injury is to ice the area, but this also needs to be done with some caution. The simplest ice pack is ice cubes placed in a plastic bag. While effective, you can cause a frostbite injury if you leave the icepack on for too long. When you first ice the area, you will go through several phases before pain relief is achieved. At first, the ice pack will feel cold. The next phase is a burning sensation and the ice will almost feel hot. This is followed by an aching or throbbing sensation. Just before the area is numb, a sharp pain may be experienced followed by the relief your desire. It can take between five to ten minutes to go through all of the phases.

Once numbness is achieved, the pack should be removed. Continue getting your spine checked by your chiropractor which will also assist in the healing process.

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