Hot and Cold: Managing Back Pain

People who suffer from chronic back pain know that there is no magic wand for vanquishing pain- in fact, even the most proactive people, those who stretch and exercise and diet to account for their pain, can still fall victim to a flare up. While suffering through the pain is always an option, we recommend taking advantage of your resources to fight pain whenever and wherever it happens. At Holmes Chiropractic, we find that the most effective techniques for managing pain are those tried and true methods which are always worth repeating: take ice and heat, for example. The point of alternating ice and heat (in that order) is to relieve pain and induce the healing process, but it needs to be done properly: 

  • Ice relieves pain, swelling and inflammation. When we apply ice, a process known as vasoconstriction happens in which the blood vessels narrow, muscles flex and inflammation is reduced. We recommend applying an ice pack (or an ice towel) to the affected area for 10-15 minutes 3 times a day, and particularly after exercise.
  • Heat is effective at encouraging muscle relaxation and stimulating the healing process. Heating an injurious region essentially does the opposite of icing: through vasodilation, the blood vessels are opened, allowing an influx of healing nutrients and oxygen. Remember that moist heat is superior to dry heat and to apply it for 15-20 minutes at a time to achieve pain relief. 

Remember that while resting, icing and heating is important for pain relief, so is movement! Movement is an effective medicine for healing because it fights the stiffening and aching of muscles that accumulates when we stay still for hours at a time. 

Dr. Randall Holmes, D.C.