Posted by | December 24 | 2019

Hot vs. Cold Treatment: Which Works Best for Back Pain Relief?

Both hot and cold therapy are often recommended to treat back pain resulting from sore muscles or joint injuries, but which type is the most effective? Should you apply a cold compress to the sore area or take a warm bath? There are a lot of back pain myths circulating online that could affect your recovery and the effectiveness of your treatment. Here’s what you need to know about each option and how you can get long-term back pain treatment.

How Cold Therapy Works

Cold therapy is designed to reduce blood flow to an injured area to slow down the rate of swelling, inflammation, and prevent tissue damage. It also numbs the area, working like a local anesthetic to reduce pain. If the joint or muscle is swollen or inflamed, ice packs or cold compresses are most effective within the first 48 hours of the injury. For standard sports injuries, rest, ice, compression, and elevation, also known as “RICE”, is recommended. It is important to note that ice should never be directly applied to the skin but covered in a dish towel or cloth before application. Cold treatment is the best option in cases of osteoarthritis, a recent injury, gout, strains, or tendinitis.

When Not to Apply Ice Packs

Cold can increase discomfort or cause further complications if used in certain instances. Here’s when you should not use ice packs:

  • If there is a risk of cramping
  • If you have a cold
  • If the area is already numb
  • If there is an open wound or blistered skin
  • If you have a vascular disease or injury
  • If you are hypersensitive to cold

How Hot Therapy Works

Hot therapy is more commonly used for muscles and stress, as it calms the nervous system and soothes the area. Heat dilates the blood vessels in the area and promotes blood flow to relax sore and tight muscles. The improved circulation also helps to break down the buildup of lactic acid waste after exercise. It is more commonly used to treat chronic muscle pain or sore joints. Hot therapy can be used to treat strains and sprains, osteoarthritis and tendonitis and it also helps to warm up stiff muscles before activity and relieve pain associated with back and neck injury.

When Not to Apply Heat

Heat is not suitable for all kinds of injury and should be avoided if there are infections, burns, or fresh injuries. Do not use heat if:

  • Skin is red, inflamed, or hot
  • You have dermatitis or an open wound
  • The area is numb
  • You are sensitive to heat because of a medical condition

Physiotherapy: A Long-Term Solution for Pain

As you can see, both hot and cold treatments are effective for immediate back pain relief, but if you are looking for a long-term solution to your pain, physiotherapy is the best method of treatment. If you’re seeking back pain treatment in Richmond Hill, North York or other cities in the GTA, look no further than MedRehab Group.

Our team of professionals provide our clients with treatments to deal with their chronic pain, back pain, sports injuries, and other post-op challenges. We serve clients in Brampton, Georgetown, Hamilton, Toronto, Richmond Hill/Maple, Vaughan, Woodbridge, and Pickering. Contact us at 1-888-409-4058 to learn more about our physiotherapy in North York and the surrounding areas or to book your first consultation.


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