Heat Therapy for Lower Back Pain

Heat therapy may provide relief for many suffering from chronic back pain. Not only does heat induce a state of relaxation, but a heating pad or warm bath can elicit muscle tissue healing. Heat therapy is both inexpensive and easy to apply from the comfort of home, making it one of the simplest tools to help reduce and alleviate chronic back pain.

What Heat Therapy Does

When heat is applied to muscle tissue, it stimulates an increase in blood flow to the area of application. This increased blood flow delivers greater quantities of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues under application. Because damaged tissue requires both oxygen and nutrients to repair itself, heat application may decrease healing time while providing relief from uncomfortable sensations. Heat therapy also works very well to decrease discomfort associated with muscle spasms. Because heat increases blood flow and induces relaxation, it may help tight, contracted muscles to relax, alleviating associated pain.

How to Use Heat Therapy

The length of application that will benefit a person with back pain depends on the type and severity of the pain. For minor pain, shorter durations of 15 to 20 minutes are appropriate. For more severe pain, application may last anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. The goal of heat therapy is to allow the warmth to penetrate deep into the muscle tissue. Because heat takes time to penetrate deeply, simply increasing the temperature of the heat applied will do very little to alleviate pain and stiffness.

When applying heat to injured or stiff tissues, there are two options: dry heat or moist heat. Dry heat may be applied in the form of electric heating pads and is typically the easiest form of application. Moist heat may be applied via a hot bath, moist heating pads, or moist towels. Because moisture better conducts heat, many report that moist heat provides more significant relief. The type of heat necessary will depend largely on the type of injury or pain, as certain heating elements will remain warm for longer periods than others. Expectedly, an electric heating pad will provide the most stable source of heat, while warm gel packs or towels will decrease in temperature relatively quickly.

When to Avoid Heat Therapy

While heat therapy may provide relief for a variety of individuals, in certain instances, it should be avoided. Those who experience swelling or bruising should cut all use of heat therapy, as it can exacerbate these issues. Those suffering from vascular disease, diabetes, dermatitis, deep vein thrombosis, and open wounds should also avoid using heat as a therapeutic modality. Individuals managing hypertension or heart disease should consult with a qualified medical professional prior to applying heat for pain reduction.

While heat therapy is both inexpensive and easy to apply, it is always necessary to consult with a qualified medical professional if any severe pain is experienced. Heat may provide appreciable relief for many, but could possibly complicate certain issues if applied incorrectly. As a do-it-yourself option, however, heat is largely touted as a fantastic remedy for a wide variety of persistent aches and pains. For more assistance with lower back pain, contact Marc Cohen Spine Center. We offer minimally invasive spine surgery options in addition to other methods to help with your chronic back pain.