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Hot Or Cold For Low Back Pain

hotcoldOne common question we are asked is “should I use a heat pack or an ice pack?” Well the answer depends on what you are trying to achieve. Ice is traditionally better during times of inflammation and swelling which is usually in the first 48 -72 hours after injury. It works by decreasing blood flow and therefore decreasing the amount of inflammatory cells to the area but also by numbing the area can help block pain. Heat on the other hand has its benefits on the muscles. One problem with muscle tightness or muscle “knots” is that they can decrease blood flow through the muscle which can lead to chemical build up and pain. Heat packs help to open up blood vessels, improve circulation and remove these chemicals. It also can help soothe pain. In regards to the research comparing the two for low back pain, heat has been shown to be more effective than ice. (1)

1. French SD, Cameron M, Walker BF, Reggars JW, Esterman AJ. Superficial heat or cold for low back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 1

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