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Jonathan Cluett, M.D.

Ice or Heat? Maybe it Doesn't Matter...

By June 2, 2013

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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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Comments
June 1, 2010 at 1:02 pm
(1) THOMAS KANE says:

DEAR SIRS;YOU ARE MOSTLY CORRECT ABOUT THE APPLICATION OF ICE AND HEAT.IT IS A PERSONAL PREFERENCE.WHEN I WAS IN REHAB MEDICINE FOR 6 YEARS DUE TOO ELECTROCUTION THEY WOULD HEAT ME UP FOR THERAPY THEN ICE ME DOWN AFTERWORDS.HERE IS THE PROBLEM WE FOUND OUT.AND IT IS HAPPENING MORE THAN YOU ARE AWARE.SOME PEOPLE ARE IN THE EARLY CRITICAL STAGES of rsd/crps.ice only aggravated this condition and in fact progresses it.Then it becomes perm.I KNOW I WENT THROUGH IT.NOBODY KNEW BUT NOW THEY DO.IT IS SOMETHING THAT SHOULD BE CONSIDERED.ESP IF YOU HAVE BURNING PAIN OR PAIN OUT OF PROPORTION TOO THE INJURY.THESE ARE THE EARLY WARNING SIGNS.THERE ARE OVER 1 MILLION PEOPLE WITH RSD.CRPS.AMERICAN PAIN FOUNDATION STATS.A LOT COULD OF SHOULD OF BEEN PREVENTED.NOW IT IS A LIFE LONG JOURNEY.

June 15, 2013 at 7:53 am
(2) Richard Haynes PTA says:

Many of my patients are elderly in physical rehabilitation working in home health, they tend to tolerate the heat better than ice. Though I agree both are excellent choices, many prefer the comfort of heat when dealing with muscle strains etc…that go with low back pain, they appear to be more compliant with heat then ice.

I do use a lot of ice however with joint reconstruction rehabilitation due to edema and for pain relief however.

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