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Use Heat or Ice to Relieve Low Back Pain

Table of Contents


Topic Overview

There is some evidence that heat will help decrease low back pain. There is little proof that cold will help.1 But some people do find that heat or cold help them. Follow these suggestions if you would like to try heat or cold for low back pain.

Heat to relieve low back pain

Ice to relieve low back pain

Ice and cold packs can relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation from injuries and other conditions such as arthritis. Use either a commercial cold pack or:

Ice the area at least 3 times a day. For the first 72 hours (3 days), ice for 10 minutes once an hour the first day, then every 2 to 3 hours. After that, a good pattern is to ice for 10 to 15 minutes 3 times a day: in the morning, in the late afternoon after work or school, and about a half hour before bedtime. Also ice after any prolonged activity or vigorous exercise.

Always keep a damp cloth between your skin and the cold pack, and press firmly against all the curves of the affected area. Do not apply ice for longer than 15 to 20 minutes at a time. And do not fall asleep with the ice on your skin.

Try alternating

You may also want to try switching between heat and cold. Use heat for 15 to 20 minutes, then a few hours later use ice for 10 to 15 minutes.


References

Citations

  1. French SD, et al. (2006). Superficial heat or cold for low back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1).

Credits for Use Heat or Ice to Relieve Low Back Pain

Current as of: July 1, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Joan Rigg PT, OCS - Physical Therapy


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