People often use heat and/or ice to help minimize the pain caused by low back pain. Which one is better for you?

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Whether you’re recovering from an injury or experiencing ongoing back pain, you probably want to know which treatments are most effective. The good news is that both heat and ice can help ease and manage pain. However, neither of them fixes the underlying injury or condition; they simply provide temporary relief while your body heals itself. In other words, neither heat nor ice is a cure-all. That said, each has its place in the treatment process—and there’s no harm in trying either or both of them.


Heat can warm up the muscles before exercise or physical activity. It’s good for muscle spasms, and it may help relax the muscles. Heat can be used in combination with ice.


Ice is often used to reduce inflammation. Ice can be applied for 15-20 minutes, and then the area needs to be rested for 20 to 60 minutes. Ice should not be applied directly on the skin because it can cause frostbite; instead, place a thin cloth between your skin and ice packs or bags of ice.

Ice is best used immediately after exercise or physical activity that causes pain in your back (such as lifting weights).

Neither ice nor heat fix the underlying injury or condition

Ice and heat are both used to relieve back pain, but neither one actually fixes the underlying injury or condition. Ice can help reduce inflammation and swelling, while heat helps relax muscles and ease tension in the back. But neither one is responsible for healing an injured muscle, disc or nerve.

Heat and ice as part of a combination of treatments

There are many different types of back pain, and each one requires a specific type of treatment.

Heat is good for muscle spasms, while ice is better for inflammation. Both can be used together, but it’s important to know that the best results come from using both heat and ice in combination with other treatments like physical therapy, rest and medication.


Both heat and ice can help ease and manage back pain. Heat is more effective at reducing muscle spasms, while ice is better for inflammation. The trick is to use both of them together: apply heat first to loosen up tight muscles before applying ice packs or wraps for a few hours. If you aren’t getting better within a few days, or especially a few weeks, or if your symptoms are getting worse, it’s important to see a doctor to find out the cause and learn about more effective treatments.

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This post is meant for educational and informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.