Cryotherapy and thermotherapy, or treating pain with cold and heat respectively, are two cheap and easy methods that can act as a back pain remedy. However, there’s a lot of confusion surrounding them. In what ways are cryotherapy and thermotherapy different? Is one method better than the other for pain management? Before we can answer the last question, let’s focus on the first one.
The Benefits of Cold to Treat Back Pain
In short, ice is for fresh injuries. Icing therapy helps a lot in the first three days after the injury because it helps minimize inflammation and swelling, thus reducing the pain. Making things even better, cold decreases tissue damage and, therefore, reduces the amount of time needed for a full recovery.
The Benefits of Heat to Treat Back Pain
Heat is best utilized for muscles and chronic injuries. When a hot compress is applied, blood starts flowing to the area faster, bringing oxygen and nutrients, and the stiffness of the muscles is decreased. As for chronic back pain, it often occurs because of tension and stress. Heat is able to make you feel comfortable and calm and lessen the pain as a result.
When Heat and Cold Make It Worse
When used improperly, heat or cold can create problems and actually make your back pain worse. If you’re applying a cold compress when you’re already freezing or a hot compress when you’re sweating, your brain might interpret it as a threat instead of a treatment. This can bring more pain than you’ve had before. Applying heat right away is probably the worst thing you can do if you’ve just suffered a back injury. If you do that, you’ll feel twice as much pain, and the area will become really swollen.
Is Either One Better Than the Other?
In a recent study conducted in a hospital emergency department, half of the patients suffering from back pain were given ice packs, while the other half was given heating pads. When the results were compared, the researchers found out that all the patients, regardless of their treatment, started feeling slightly less pain. It made no significant difference in terms of which treatment they received.
Neither heat nor ice is a substitute for actual medical treatment; they can only give you temporary relief and speed the recovery period. So, the best thing you can do for your back is to go with the back pain remedy that works best for you. If you notice that a hot compress is making you feel better, stick to it. If it isn’t, you can always switch to an ice pack and see if it helps.