When back pain and discomfort strike, many individuals prefer an alternative to simply taking pain medication and waiting for the problem to subside. Cold and heat are both options that can provide quick relief for all types of back pain. The following are some simple facts about how you can use an ice wrap or heat wrap to maximize your body's own healing mechanisms.
When injury or strain first occurs, your best option for fast relief is an ice wrap. Treating an injury with cold is rarely a mistake, regardless of the cause of the injury. Whether you strained your back by lifting something too heavy for you or participating in too strenuous of an exercise routine, you will find that treating the sore area with cold will offer some level of relief almost instantly. Such therapy is even appropriate if you have chronic back pain from an underlying physical condition. However, it is important to use such wraps appropriately in order to achieve the best possible results.
Proper Use of Cold Therapy
Using cold therapy immediately following strain or injury will help prevent swelling and bruising from the fluid and waste buildup that typically occurs during such events. Ice wraps also help numb your nerve endings, which will provide localized pain relief. To use cold treatments properly you should begin by applying ice or gel packs to the affected area for 20 minutes. You should then remove the ice wrap for the same amount of time.
Cold therapy should be repeated as frequently as you like for the first 48 to hours, during which time it will decrease tissue temperature and prevent muscle spasms. If you are using plain ice, however, it is essential to wrap the ice in a towel or cloth in order to avoid damaging your skin. Selecting the perfect cloth for this purpose can sometimes be a challenging endeavor, and for this reason you may wish to invest in a gel pack or other type of pre-manufactured ice wrap.
Four Stages of Ice Therapy
There are essentially four stages of ice therapy. During the first stage, your back will simply feel cold, which will be followed by a prickly or burning sensation. The third stage may feel like a deep ache; however, this will only last a short amount of time, after which it will be followed by the most important stage, which is numbness. These stages typically occur throughout the aforementioned 20 minute period of time. It is usually appropriate to reapply the cold pack after 20 minutes, as this is typically how long it will take your skin temperature to return to normal.
After several days of cold treatments, you may wish to comfort the sore area of your back with heat therapy. The latter will aid the flow of blood to the affected area so that it is more able to repair itself. Soothing heat will also help your injured muscles to relax and increase your range of mobility. A compression wrap is also a good option after you have participated in cold and heat therapy. Compression involves wrapping the affected area with a bandage made from some type of elastic material. The latter is designed to offer support and speed the healing process. Back pain is always unpleasant, but with the use of an ice wrap or gel packs, you can effectively minimize your pain and discomfort.