The question regularly comes up about whether to use heat or cold therapy among sufferers of back pain. Although both have their place in treating neck pain and back pain, heat therapy not only provides pain relief and muscle relaxation but it also has healing benefits for multiple types of back pain. Heat therapy should be the first line of treatment for back pain, according to the American College of Physicians, a leading association of physicians that sets medical treatment standards globally. Back pain treatment from Tucker, GA chiropractors is highly recommended!
Heat has been used treat back pain and neck pain for a long time – over 2,500 years in fact. Heat therapy is an inexpensive back pain relief method and can be easily administered in multiple ways, including hot baths, heat wraps, warm gel packs, heating pads and more.
Benefits of Heat Therapy for Neck and Back Pain
Chronic back pain and neck pain is a common problem in Americans, often due to repetitive motion from cell phone and computer use or because of heavy lifting. Some cases of severe neck and/or back pain are due to severe injury. Muscle strain in the lower back or neck can lead to tension in the soft tissues and muscles around the spine, leading to improper circulation and the sending of pain signals the brain.
Sensations associated with neck and back pain and subsequent muscle spasms can lead to sensations that range from mild pain to excruciating discomfort. Heat therapy helps to relive muscle spasm pain and tightness that can hinder healing.
The overall benefits of heat therapy include:
- Reduces stiffness in back and neck
- Soothes muscle tension
- Relaxes muscles
- Eases pain
- Increases mobility
- Heals damaged tissues
- Reduces muscle spasms
Digging deeper, the application of heat therapy is beneficial in multiple ways. First, it helps to dilate the blood vessels of the affected muscles that surround the spine, increasing oxygen and nutrient flow to the muscles, enabling the damaged tissue to better heal.
Heat therapy also stimulates sensory receptors in the skin, decreasing signals of pain while removing some of the discomfort.
Heat also assists in the stretching of the soft tissues around the spine, including connective tissues, muscles and adhesions. This helps to reduce stiffness and injury by increasing flexibility and range of motion, leading to less discomfort.
Should I Use Pain Relievers for Neck and Back Pain?
Pain relievers and surgeries are not recommended for neck and back pain and should only be used as a last resort. Taking over-the-counter drugs on a long-term basis is associated with negative health implications, such as heart attack, gastrointestinal bleeding or stroke. Less invasive methods of back pain treatment are recommended as well becasue surgery typically takes longer to heal. Alternative treatment methods, such as massage, physical therapy and chiropractic care in combination with adequate nutrition, proper hydration and heat therapy go a long way in helping the body to wholly heal, with virtually no long-term risks.
Types of Heat Therapy
Two types of heat therapy exist: dry heat and moist heat.
Many people prefer dry heat, which can come from saunas and electric heating pads. Dry heat options tend to draw out moisture from the body, leaving the skin feel dehydrated. Some say that drinking extra water can help combat this problem.
Moist heat can be administered by way of steamed towels, moist heating packs, hot baths and more. Moist heat helps the heat to penetrate further into the muscles and some patients report a greater level of pain relief with this method.
When to Avoid Heat Therapy
If you have back or neck pain but also have any of the following conditions, it is prudent to talk to your healthcare provider before using heat application. In some of these cases, heat therapy is never a good idea:
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Open wounds
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Heart disease