Home > Health Library > Use Heat or Ice to Relieve Low Back Pain
There is some evidence that heat will help decrease low back pain.
There is little proof that cold will help.1 But some
people do find that heat or cold help them. Follow these suggestions if you
would like to try heat or cold for low back pain.
Heat to relieve low back pain
Ice to relieve low back pain
Ice and cold packs can relieve pain, swelling, and
inflammation from injuries and other conditions such
arthritis. Use either a commercial cold pack
Ice the area at least 3 times a day. For the first 72 hours (3 days),
ice for 10 minutes once an hour the first day, then every 2 to 3 hours. After
that, a good pattern is to ice for 10 to 15 minutes 3 times a day: in the
morning, in the late afternoon after work or school, and about a half hour before
bedtime. Also ice after any prolonged activity or vigorous exercise.
Always keep a damp cloth between your skin and the cold pack, and
press firmly against all the curves of the affected area. Do not apply ice for
longer than 15 to 20 minutes at a time. And do not fall asleep with the ice on
You may also want to try switching between heat and cold. Use
heat for 15 to 20 minutes, then a few hours later use ice for 10 to 15
French SD, et al. (2006). Superficial heat or cold for
low back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
December 14, 2011
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics
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