According to the NIND, a part of the National Institutes of Health, if you have lower back pain, you are not alone. Nearly everyone at some point has back pain that interferes with work, routine daily activities, or recreation. Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on low back pain, the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work. Back pain is the second most common neurological ailment in the United States - only headache is more common. Fortunately, most occurrences of low back pain go away within a few days. Others take much longer to resolve or lead to more serious conditions.
Neurologists classify pain as either acute or chronic, depending on the length of time the problem has persisted.
Acute or short-term low back pain generally lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Most acute back pain is mechanical in nature - the result of trauma to the lower back or a disorder such as arthritis. Pain from trauma may be caused by a sports injury, work around the house or in the garden, or a sudden jolt such as a car accident or other stress on spinal bones and tissues. Symptoms may range from muscle ache to shooting or stabbing pain, limited flexibility and/or range of motion, or an inability to stand straight. Occasionally, pain felt in one part of the body may "radiate" from a disorder or injury elsewhere in the body. Some acute pain syndromes can become more serious if left untreated. Use of appropriate therapy at home in the first hours after the pain begins can often reduce the length of time required for recovery and lessen the involvement of surrounding muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Chronic back pain has persisted for more than 3 months. It is often progressive and the cause can be difficult to determine.
Chou R, Huffman LH of the Oregon Evidence-based Practice Center and Oregon Health & Science University, in a study for the American Pain Society; American College of Physicians studied acupuncture, back schools, psychological therapies, exercise therapy, functional restoration, interdisciplinary therapy, massage, physical therapies (interferential therapy, low-level laser therapy, lumbar supports, shortwave diathermy, superficial heat, traction, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), and ultrasonography), spinal manipulation, and yoga for acute or chronic low back pain (with or without leg pain). He concluded that, for acute low back pain, the only therapy with good evidence of efficacy is superficial heat (Click here to jump to our Thermophore Moist Heat Pack products).
Spine-Health.com outlines the benefits of heat therapy for lower back pain as follows:
While the overall qualities of warmth and heat have long been associated with comfort and relaxation, heat therapy goes a step further and can provide both pain relief and healing benefits for many types of lower back pain.
Many episodes of lower back pain result from strains and over-exertions, creating tension in the muscles and soft tissues around the lower spine. As a result, this restricts proper circulation and sends pain signals to the brain.
Muscle spasm in the lower back can create sensations that may range from mild discomfort to excruciating lower back pain. Heat therapy can help relieve pain from the muscle spasm and related tightness in the lower back.
|Heat therapy application can help provide lower back pain relief through several mechanisms:
|| Heat therapy dilates the blood vessels of the muscles surrounding the lumbar spine. This process increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, helping to heal the damaged tissue.
|| Heat stimulates the sensory receptors in the skin, which means that applying heat to the lower back will decrease transmissions of pain signals to the brain and partially relieve the discomfort.
|| Heat application facilitates stretching the soft tissues around the spine, including muscles, connective tissue, and adhesions. Consequently, with heat therapy, there will be a decrease in stiffness as well as injury, with an increase in flexibility and overall feeling of comfort. Flexibility is very important for a healthy back.
There are several significant benefits of heat therapy that make it so appealing. Compared to most therapies, heat therapy is quite inexpensive, and is also easy to do - it can be done at home while relaxing.
For many people, heat therapy works best when combined with other treatment modalities, such as physical therapy and exercise. Relative to most medical treatments available, heat therapy is appealing to many people because it is a non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical form of lower back pain relief. Effectively, heat therapy is simply helping the body heal itself!
The most effective heat therapy products are the ones that can maintain their heat at the proper temperature. The desired effect is for the heat to penetrate down into the muscles. Simply increasing the temperature of the skin will do little to decrease discomfort.
In many instances, the longer the heat is applied, the better. The duration that one needs to apply the heat, though, is based on the type of and/or magnitude of the injury. For very minor back tension, short amounts of heat therapy may be sufficient (such as 15 to 20 minutes). For more intense injuries, longer sessions of heat may be more beneficial (such as 30 minutes to 2 hours, or more).
Moist heat, such as moist heating packs, can aid in the heat's penetration into the muscles, and some people feel that moist heat provides better pain relief than cold therapy or dry heat.
In summary, heat therapy is an easy and inexpensive option to provide relief from many forms of lower back pain. It may be used alone or in conjunction with other therapies. Because it is so simple, it is often overlooked and physicians may forget to mention it, but heat therapy used in the right way can be a valuable part of many lower back pain treatment programs.
The Thermophore® Automatic Moist Heat Pack™ has long been known as a convenient, effective method of providing penetrating moist heat to help relieve all types of pain and stiffness. It reaches much higher temperatures than ordinary heating pads, and is even classified as a medical device by the FDA. There is no need to add any water to the unit - atmospheric moisture is captured by the special fleece cover and released when the intense heat is activated. Because of the higher levels of heat needed to be truly effective, the unit is provided with a special safety switch that lets users constantly control the intensity of heat, and will shut off if they become drowsy or inattentive.
The Thermophore® Arthritis Pad provides all the intense moist heat you have come to expect from the Original Thermophore®, with the added convenience of a hands-free on/off switch. Just press the button and relax, while the Arthritis pad quickly begins to penetrate sore, stiff joints and relax muscle spasms. When the heat reaches your individual comfort level, just press the Off button to let the unit cool a bit. This cycle of heating and cooling will help to increase circulation, relax muscles and relieve pain and stiffness. The switch also has a built-in 20-minute timer, to shut the Arthritis Pad off if you happen to fall asleep or are interrupted during your therapy session.
Our Ice It!® Deluxe Wrap Cold Therapy System was designed to complement the moist heat therapy provided by the Thermophore® Pack. It provides the same safe, convenient, effective therapy you have come to expect from Battle Creek Equipment Company. The soft foam-lined fabric pouches hold reusable, non-toxic cold packs that stay pliable even fully frozen and are ready for use in just 20 minutes. Wide elastic bands with Velcro® closures allow unlimited positioning with no need to hold the cold pack in place. Available in a variety of styles to suit a variety of needs.
Click here for Frequently Asked Questions about ourThermophore® and Ice It!®