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Ice for Lower Back Pain

Updated on October 12, 2014

$50 billion dollars are spent annually due to back pain or back injury. Back pain has been identified as the second most common neurological reason that most people go in to see their doctors (nih.gov).

Five Vertebrae in Lower Back

There are five lumbar vertebrae located in the lower back. Between those vertebrae lie the discs and nerves
There are five lumbar vertebrae located in the lower back. Between those vertebrae lie the discs and nerves | Source

Common Causes of Lower Back Pain and Injury

Bending and/or twisting are two of the greater perpetrators of lower back pain. It is not uncommon for a disk/nerve to get pinched. Disks and nerves are found between each of the five vertebrae in our lower backs. When either is pinched, this can lead to inflammation and excruciating pain. We commonly see back injuries tied to bending and/or twisting as a result of tasks done around the house like vacuuming, yard maintenance –from raking leaves to shoveling snow or even bending to retrieve or pick up the laundry.

There are also risk factors that make us more prone to general back pain or injury to our backs such as:

  • Age (ages 30-50)

  • Lack of exercise geared towards strengthening the back and abdomen

  • Diseases/conditions may increase risks for back pain including arthritis, cancer, diabetes

  • Your job may increase your risk for back injury, particularly jobs that require heavy lifting, squatting, bending, pushing, pulling, or prolonged sitting

  • Lifestyle choices such as smoking can lead to lower back pain. Studies have shown that smoking can inhibit the discs of the lower back from receiving the nutrients and blood flow therefore leading to spinal discs to degenerate.

When to Use Ice for Lower Back Pain

Experts agree that ice should be used for acute injuries or injuries that are fresh and that heat is more appropriate for stiffness or chronic pain. Ideally, ice should be applied within 48-72 hours of the injury. Studies have demonstrated that patients who use cold therapy on injuries tend to require less pain medication.

Chronic pain is described as pain lasting for six months of more while acute pain typically occurs as the result of an injury. While acute pain may only last for six weeks or a shorter duration, chronic pain may require professional support from a physician.

Heat helps to reduce muscle spasms and pain while ice aids in the reduction of swelling and does a wonderful job of numbing deep pain.

How to Use Ice to Alleviate Lower Back Pain

Fill an ice-pack with ice or you can use a cold pack. Lie down on your side with a pillow between your knees. Place the ice pack on your lower back and/or buttocks and simply rest for 20 minutes 2-3 times per day. You may find that you will need to rotate between applying ice to your buttock and applying ice to your lower back region.

Of course, avoid applying ice directly to your skin as this prove to be more harmful than good.

After 72 hours, then one should rotate to heat if pain or stiffness remains a problem.

Side Lying Position with Pillow(s)

Side-lying position with a pillow between the knees and beneath the head can reduce spine curvature.
Side-lying position with a pillow between the knees and beneath the head can reduce spine curvature. | Source

Tips to Prevent Lower Back Pain

The following are suggested tips for the prevention of back pain:

  • Avoid prolonged sitting by standing and stretching your legs periodically

  • Exercise regularly

  • Sleep in a side-lying position with a pillow between your knees and pillow beneath your head so that your back can get some relief through a reduction of curvature of the spine

  • Maintain a healthy weight

© 2014 Mahogany Speaks

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