A new study has investigated the use of ice and heat application, and determined the use of either treatment helped, but it didn't matter which was used. Many doctors tell patients to use ice at one time, heat at another, but for acute low back strain injuries, the choice didn't seem to matter.
This study looked at patients who came to the emergency room after a back injury. All patients received oral anti-inflammatory medications, and then the patients were either given an ice pack or a heat pad, and this was applied to their back. The study researches then looked at how their pain changed. They found that ice or heat, it didn't seem to matter.
Bottom Line: Study authors recommended that patients or providers use either ice or heat, whatever their preference. So if you have back pain, and one feels more comfortable, then pick that treatment.
Sources: Garra G, et al. "Heat or Cold Packs for Neck and Back Strain: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Efficacy" Academic Emergency Medicine; Volume 17 Issue 5, Pages 484 - 489.
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