Treating back issues: Hot/cold packs

Back pain can be excruciating and can have a severe impact on your health and livelihood. In this article, we examine the treatment of back issues, and in particular the use of hot/cold packs.

Why do people use hot/cold packs to treat back issues?

With any sprain, strain or bruise, there is always some form of internal bleeding, although often relatively minor. This can cause uncomfortable swelling and can delay healing. The use of ice can help to alleviate the symptoms of back issues. Ice may be used to immediately treat a problem, or may be used in long-term rehabilitation for severe back issues. The effects are particularly pronounced after a slip, trip or fall.

Ice packs are also beneficial in the fact that they are cheap and easy to make at home. An icepack can be made from a number of household items including some ice cubes inside a plastic bag, a wet towel, or even a bag of frozen vegetables. Commercial ice packs are also available for multiple use. It is also possible to make an icepack, by wetting a sponge, placing this inside a plastic bag and then freezing it. This will help prevent any leakages and can be reused

Alternatively, heat can be used to treat any injuries which are more than 48 hours old. The application of heat causes the blood vessels to dilate, allowing increased blood flow to the affected area which in turn helps to heal damaged tissue. It is important not to use heat on any fresh injury, as this will draw more blood to the affected area, potentially causing swelling and severe bruising. One exception to observe is that heat can be more effective when treating new-onset lower back strains. In this instance, pain is caused by muscle spasm rather than tissue damage, so heat may provide an effective form of pain relief.

Heat packs can also be made in similar methods to an icepack, either by heating a wet tea towel for a short period of time in the microwave, or again by purchasing a commercial heat pack which can be reused multiple times.

Ice is seen as a better long-term treatment for the relief of back pain, as the properties of ice provide longer pain relief effects.

Do not use ice or heat packs if you have diabetes, and do not use ice or heat packs on areas of skin which are sensitive.

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