LOW BACK PAIN: ICE VERSUS HEAT TREATMENT

Fri 12/5/14:
Happy Friday people!!!
It’s that busy time of year…between work, shopping, decorating and extra cooking our back pain may flare up. Anytime back pain raises it’s ugly head reach for the ice pack.
Low back pain (LBP) can strike at any time or place, often when we least expect it. There are “self-help” approaches that can be of great benefit, but many of these approaches can fail, or worse, irritate the condition. Here are some “do’s and don’ts” when self-managing low back pain!
Ice vs. Heat? Typically, people are almost always confused about which is better, ice or heat? This decision can be significantly helpful or hurtful, depending on the case. Generally, “ice is nice,” as it vasoconstricts and pushes out inflammation or swelling, which usually feels relieving and helpful even though the initial “shock” of ice may not be too appealing to most of us! This is probably why MOST people will wrongly choose heat as their initial course of self-care. This is usually wrong because heat vasodilates, which draws blood into the injured area that is already inflamed and swollen, thus adding more fluid to the injured area — sort of like throwing gas on a fire! Heat may feel good initially, but often soon after, increased pain intensity and frequency may occur. When LBP is chronic or NOT new / acute, heat can be very helpful, as it relaxes muscles and improves movement by reducing stiffness (but never use heat more than 20 minutes per hour). Also, moist heat is better than dry heat…say, a heating pad.

The biggest mistake about the use of heat is leaving it on too long – some people even burn themselves with a heating pad they’ve left on for hours of continuous use – sometimes overnight (PLEASE DON’T DO THAT!). When using ice, there are MANY ways one can apply it. If you only have 5-10 minutes, that is better than nothing! However, an ideal approach is to apply the ice pack or bag as follows: On 15 min. / off 15 min. / on 15 min. / off 15 min. / on 15 minutes (total time: 1:15 hr). The “off 15 minutes” helps the area to warm up by allowing the blood to come back into the low back area, which avoids frost bite and sets up a pump-like action. Even better is an approach called “CONTRAST THERAPY” where we start and end with ice and use heat in between as follows: ICE 10 minutes / HEAT 5 min. / ICE 10 min. / HEAT 5 min. / ICE 10 min. (total time: 40 minutes). This approach creates a stronger pump-like or “push-pull” action that pushes out fluids/inflammation (with ice) followed by pulling in fluids (with heat). Both approaches are effective! If you ever feel worse after icing, PLEASE STOP AND CONTACT US, as you may have a unique case or situation.

As for how active to be…that will vary between individuals. Do take care and not over do it. The worst course of action is to get in the easy chair and do nothing. “Motion is lotion”. Movement is good. If you happen to know FOUNDATION TRAINING some decompression breathing would be very beneficial! Some gentle Founders would do wonders also. Of course, you would have to know how to perform the exercises correctly. Listen to your body….don’t let back pain get you down for the holidays!

Give a gift of FOUNDATION TRAINING for Christmas. You could change someone’s life.

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