Should I Use Ice or Heat to Relieve Lower Back Pain?

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Should I Use Ice or Heat to Relieve Lower Back Pain?

So you’re experiencing lower back pain? I know it’s awful. And I’d like to help.

In addition to treating lower back pain for patients with adjustments and other chiropractic treatments and therapies, I make recommendations for all patients for what they can be doing at home, on their own, to relieve lower back pain. And spending time icing or heating the are is often recommended.

Most of my patients tend to think of ice as the “go to” treatment for lower back pain. While there are certain instances where ice (or a combination of ice and heat) is preferred, most often, heat is actually better at relieving lower back pain.

The question is not so much as which to use, ice or heat? But rather, when to use ice or heat to treat lower back pain.

When to use ice to treat lower back pain

In short, ice is for injuries

Ice is ideal for calming down damaged tissues that are inflamed, red, hot and swollen. Even though the inflammatory process is a healthy, normal, natural process, it also happens to be incredibly painful. Icing helps to control the pain of inflammation.

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you are probably going to experience some back pain relief by icing the area.

  • Did the pain hit you suddenly while you were intensely stretching or in a moment of athletic intensity? Were you lifting something (you probably should not have been lifting) that was heavy and/or awkward? In other words, did you have an “oh, no!” moment?
  • Is there a spot in the muscle that’s extremely sensitive to poking? Check to see if there is a bump or a depression.
  • Is the skin flushed and hot? And look puffy?

In these instances, ice or cold will do well to treat lower back pain.

Using ice or to relieve lower back pain

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.

When to use heat to treat lower back pain

In all other instances, heat is almost always the preferred method of treatment for lower back pain.

In short, heat is for muscles

Heat is good for taking the edge off the pain of whole muscle spasms and trigger points (localized spasms, or muscle knot) for easing psychological stress.

Apply heat for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Moist heat (hot packs, baths, showers) works better than dry heat.


  • Try an all-day heat wrap, available in pharmacies.
  • If you are using an electric heating pad, avoid falling asleep while the pad is on. Use heating pads set on low or medium, never on high


In both cases, do what feels best. Relief is the important part.

If you would like to schedule a consultation about how you can get relief from lower back pain, call (910) 777-7228. 

By |2017-04-07T13:21:35+00:00July 23rd, 2014|Categories: athletic, back pain, Back Pain relief|0 Comments

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