How To Use Heating Pads For Back Pain
For a lot of us, as we get older, we have more and more problems with our backs.
And a heating pad is the perfect way to treat your aching back or your recurring back problems.
Using a heating pad to help with your back pain include switching between cold and hot for new back pain, applying heat for chronic back pain, and applying cold right after working out to reduce soreness.
Read on to find out more about what to do about back pain.
A word on back pain
Before we get into the subject of the article, I just want to put a disclaimer on here.
We are not trained medical professionals. The information we are providing here is from our own personal experience and the experience of others. What we are trying to do it give our best recommendations.
If you feel like you have a serious back problem, you should be going to see a medical professional so they can give you a professional opinion.
Please see a medical professional. What we are covering here is how to help with the pain and should not replace what a medical professional is recommends you should do.
Who has back pain?
A good number of adults in the United States suffer from back pain.
According to Georgetown University:
"Back problems are among patients’ most frequent complaints to their doctors. Nearly 65 million Americans report a recent episode of back pain. Some 16 million adults — 8 percent of all adults — experience persistent or chronic back pain, and as a result are limited in certain everyday activities. Back pain is the sixth most costly condition in the United States. Health care costs and indirect costs due to back pain are over $12 billion per year.(1) Adults with back pain are more likely to use health care services than adults without back pain."
So we are talking about a problem that affects a lot of people.
In my case, my back problems started when I was in middle school. I was playing a game of football and ended up tackling someone with my head instead of my arms. The next thing I knew, I saw stars everywhere and I woke up a minute later. Luckily I was able to walk away, but from then on, I wasn't able to go to sleep on my stomach (my favorite position) like I could before. If I ever slept in the wrong position or went camping and wasn't comfortable, then my back would hurt for a good week or two.
My story is just a minor one compared to many other stories out there.
I know of someone who dove into the side of a pool they weren't supposed to dive into and they ended up ruining their back.
There are so many stories out there.
Switch between cold and hot for new back pain
One of the best things you can do for yourself dealing with back pain is to make sure you are addressing new back pain right away.
For example, when I was training for a half marathon, one day I woke up with a horrible pain in my back.
This was different from the pain I typically get when sleeping in a bad position.
This one hurt bad and the typical exercises I would do weren't helping at all.
When I told my wife about my pain, she suggested I go visit a massage therapist.
That same day I visited a sports massage therapist and he was able to work the area and help relieve a lot of the pain I was having.
If I hadn't addressed the issue right away, it might have turned into a bigger problem, especially if I would have continued to train for the half marathon.
So it becomes important to address your back pain as soon as it happens so it doesn't become even worse.
And you can do this by applying both hot and cold to the area.
LavaBags are great in this respect because LavaBags deal well in both hot and cold conditions.
Start off by putting your LavaBag heating pad in the freezer for a few hours.
Typically I start off by keeping my LavaBag in the freezer, because it is easier and quicker to heat up a heating pad then cooling down the heating pad.
When it is cold enough, take it out of the freezer and place it on the area of the back that is exhibiting pain.
The cold from the LavaBag should last up to 30 minutes, which is just how long you want it to last.
Then, stick it back into the freezer.
But this time, in about 2 hours, take it out of the freezer and put it in the microwave.
Set the time on the microwave for about 3 minutes.
Once you take it out of the microwave, you'll want to wrap a towel around it before you place it on your body.
Then leave it on your back for up to 30 minutes.
Afterwards, put it back in the freezer and start the process all over again throughout the day.
The cold LavaBag will help to alleviate any pain, while the hot LavaBag will increase the blood flow to allow the body to recover from what the injury may be.
Apply heat for chronic back pain
As we've discussed, it is best to apply cold to new back injuries to help alleviate the pain.
The cold basically numbs the area, which take the pain away for the time that the area is cold.
But on the flip side when you have chronic pain, or regularly occurring pain, then the best thing to apply is heat to the area.
According to Spine Health:
Heat therapy promotes healing by increasing blood flow to the muscles in the lower back. Increased blood flow delivers more oxygen, white blood cells, platelets, and essential nutrients – all of which help repair damaged tissues heal.
Sensory nerves respond to applied heat by releasing chemical messengers that dilate local blood vessels and enhance the speed of blood flow.1 Both the applied heat and the increased blood flow help the skin temperature rise to match the body’s core temperature. After the skin reaches the core temperature, the blood absorbs excess heat and protects the skin from burns.2
Heat also transfers from the skin surface deep into the muscles, and improves blood circulation into the muscles. In this process, the heat has to cross the layer of fat right under the skin, which may be an obstacle to effective heat therapy in people who have a thicker fat layer.3,4
So if you have increased blood flow to your back, that also delivers more oxygen to the muscles, which in turn will give the muscles an opportunity to heal.
This is why heat therapy is good for recurring injuries.
When you have a recurring injury that you need to address, get your LavaBag and stick it into the microwave for 3 to 4 minutes.
This should give you 30-45 minutes of heat to apply to your body.
After that time, give your body a break and put the LavaBag in the freezer.
When about 2 hours have passed, then you can put it into the microwave again for 3 to 4 minutes and continue the process again.
Any time more than 30 to 45 minutes isn't great for your skin and should be avoided.
Apply cold right after working out to reduce soreness
If you are familiar with sports, you might be familiar with the site of athletes sitting in an ice bath.
For a long time, I wondered why they did this.
Why would they put themselves through all the cold right after working?
Well, the answer to that is pretty simple.
Cold therapy reduces blood flow, which is turn reduces swelling and decreases the chances of pain occurring.
With athletes, during their season, they are usually working out every day and that doesn't include the games they actually play (depending on the sport, they could have a game anywhere from 1 time a week to 3 or 4 times a week).
So going into the ice bath gives them the opportunity to allow their body to avoid swelling and helps with any stiffness.
The same is true for us.
After we work out, we can take the opportunity to apply cold to allow our body to recover more easily.
Take the LavaBag out of the freezer and place it on your back after a workout.
After 20 to 30 minutes, the cold will go away from the LavaBag and you'll need to place it in the freezer again.
Wait two hours and then place it on your back again.
Repeat throughout the day as needed.
Hot and cold therapies with your LavaBag are great ways to treat your back for injury or to reduce swelling in that area.
As stated previously, if you are having issues with your back, please see a medical professional immediately.
But you can treat slight swelling or soreness with a LavaBag and then go on with the rest of your day.