As a chiropractor, I have seen many back injuries. Injuries can be acute or chronic. Many people ask me the same question, Which is better for back pain, Ice or Heat? I want to put an end to this debate so you’ll know next time what to do for the painful area.
Ice or Heat for Back Pain – Which is better?
Both heat and ice have their advantages and are used for different purposes. Let’s start with the advantage of using a heat pack.
Heat packs are great for promoting blood flow. This is because heat causes blood vessels to dilate. As a result, it allows more volume of blood to be pumped through. This has many advantages for the human body.
Firstly, due to the increase in blood flow, more oxygen, nutrients and minerals will be able to flow to the area of damage allowing more recovery and healing to occur.
Secondly, the increase in blood flow can help with muscle pain. This is because all the harmful toxins and lactic acids (which is often the cause of muscle pain) will be flushed away. Leading to healthier cells around the area of damage.
Finally, using a heat pack to promote vessel dilation can lead to the relaxation of muscles. This is because heat increases muscle elasticity. The muscles in our body are just like rubber where heat allows for the rubber to be more elastic and further stretched. This leads to tight muscles being able to stretch and relax more.
Ice or cold therapy does the opposite promoting blood flow, it decreases blood flow. This is because cold temperature and ice packs lead to vasoconstriction (constriction of the blood vessel). There are also benefits to constricting blood flow.
Firstly, it decreases inflammation. After a traumatic incident, the body naturally tries to heal instantly by increasing blood flow suddenly, to allow white blood cells. By constricting the blood flow, there will be a decrease in inflammatory reaction causing less swelling. It is this swelling that compresses nerves which will cause pain in the damaged area.
Secondly, ice can also soothe muscle pain temporarily after an intense workout. This is because it reduces inflammation caused by the workout. This leads to a decrease in lactic acid build-up thus minimising pain in the overworked muscles.
For a brief summary, there are many benefits to both heat and ice therapy. The main point of heat therapy is to promote blood flow allowing for quicker recovery. Whilst, ice/cold therapy helps minimise inflammation in the body by constricting blood flow. As a suggestion, if your pain is chronic I would suggest heat therapy would be the way to go. However, if you have just finished a workout or had a recent injury, ice would be the best way to go. This way you can stop the inflammatory response as quick as possible.
Hopefully, this clarifies the debate of which is better; heat or ice. Next time, you will be better informed about what to do!
When to visit a Chiropractor?
If you are applying therapy to an injury, your a most likely going to benefit from visiting your Chiropractor.
For treatment, advice and relief of acute or chronic pain, you can visit our chiropractic and wellness clinic in Auckland, North Shore.