FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Is heat or cold better for back pain?
The short answer is both, but timing is critical. Immediately following an injury, cold treatment should be applied for the first 24 to 72 hours to reduce inflammation and minimize tissue damage. Whether you choose a reusable gel ice pack or simply a bag of frozen vegetables, be sure to layer a towel or washcloth between the cold pack and your skin for protection. Cold compresses of any sort should not be applied for longer than 20 minutes at a time.
After the initial swelling has gone down, apply either dry or moist heat to the affected area. Heat therapy stimulates blood flow, decreases stiffness, reduces pain and facilitates the healing process. Options include both dry heat and moist heating pads or packs. While both forms of therapy will suffice, moist heating pads like ScripHessco Moist Heat Packs are thought to penetrate into muscle tissue more efficiently and offer the added benefit of keeping the skin hydrated. For your convenience, reusable hot and cold packs can be chilled in the freezer or warmed in the microwave for both cold and heat therapy applications.
While alternating between heat and cold therapy is thought to be best for exercise-induced or injury-related muscle pain, finding a balance to manage chronic pain may be more difficult. As always, please consult your physician before treating any injury or pain.
How long does a cold pack last?
Available in reusable and single-use forms, cold packs are used to manage inflammation and swelling caused by injury or chronic conditions. The length of time these packs stay cold depends on a number of factors such as the type of pack used, skin temperature or even the temperature in the surrounding environment.
Single-use or instant cold packs" are commonly used as a first line of defense for strains, sprains, impact injuries and in other emergency instances calling for inflammation and swelling control. First aid kits often employ instant cold packs for use when ice or refrigeration is not possible. This type of cold pack works by shaking or hitting it to break up the internal ingredients causing an endothermic reaction that keeps the pack cold for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Gel ice packs or reusable cold packs last longer. Once frozen in a standard freezer, a gel ice pack can stay cold for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature, but when used against the heat of the skin will last no longer than 2 hours. Reusable gel ice packs like ALL-TEMP® Comfort Packs offer the convenient benefit of doubling as a heat pack.
How do I heat gel packs in the microwave?
With your microwave on medium to medium-high setting, approximately 600w depending on the manufacturer and model of your unit, place a hot and cold gel pack like Thermalsoft Gel Hot & Cold Packs flat on the turntable and heat for 20 seconds. Upon completion, carefully remove the gel pack with a towel, pot holder or tongs. Taking care to protect your hands, squish up the gel inside the pack to evenly distribute the heat. Return the heat pack to the microwave and heat for another 10 to 20 seconds. Continue this process until the reusable hot pack has reached an ideal temperature. When complete, wrap it in a towel or heat pack cover and apply to the affected area.
How do I use moist heating pads for pain relief?
Moist heating pads vary in type and style. While a physical therapist may employ a hydrocollator to heat pads like Chattanooga Hydrocollator® Packs - HotPac Moist Heat Packs & Steam Packs, others are designed to be plugged into a standard wall outlet or can be easily heated in a microwave. The Thermophore MAXHeat Moist Heating Pad is easy to use; simply plug it in, choose either a low, medium or high heat setting and apply. Heating pads like the Relief Pak® Moist Heat Packs are microwave safe and used in either a home or professional setting. All moist heating pads, whether heated electrically, at home or in a clinician’s controlled water bath, should be applied with care. To avoid burns, always use a towel, cover or protective layer between the affected area and the heated device. Please avoid applying heat therapy to bruised, swollen, infected or broken skin.
What are the benefits of buckwheat pillows and wraps?
Buckwheat support pillows and therapy wraps are extremely effective options for hot and cold therapies. The nature of the all-natural buckwheat filling allows the wrap to conform to the body seamlessly and the toxin-free grain is exceptional at controlling both cold and hot temperatures. Buckwheat pillows last forever, are aromatic and can be conveniently microwaved or warmed in a hot towel cabi as well as cooled in a freezer. Some therapy pillows like the Mother Earth® Med-Grade Buckwheat Hull Support Set employ a wipeable cover to easily clean between clients.