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Heat Therapy for Back Pain

The human back is a complex combination of bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves that forms the core of our body’s structure. Millions of people take their backs for granted until they become injured and discover just how debilitating back problems really are. Statistics indicate that over 80% of people will experience back injury in their lives. While many will experience a complete recovery, the healing process is often long and quite painful. Back pain can be constant and sharp, dull and throbbing, radiant or localized. Heat therapy is one of the best ways to alleviate and treat it.

Why Back Pain is so Widespread

The back is the body’s foundation. All the major muscle groups anchor to it in some way, and the spinal cord conducts nerve impulses to and from our brains. The back is divided into four basic areas: the neck (cervical spine), upper back (thoracic spine) and shoulders, the lower back (lumbar spine), and the tailbone (pelvic spine). Each of these areas provides support and strength for movement of a different part of the body. The back is used in almost every movement, even if just as stabilization, which is why the back is so prone to injury.

Common Causes of Back Pain

There really is no short list of causes for back pain. The back is a very complex structure, with 33 vertebrae, 77 muscles, multiple joints, ligaments and vertebral discs. It just takes an injury to one portion to leave you in pain.

The most common cause of back pain is due to muscular strains, which are small tears in the muscle. This injury occurs when an unexpected force, pull or twist is applied to one or more of the muscles in the back.

A ligament sprain is also quite common and occurs whenever the ligaments of the back are stretched beyond their limits. This injury is almost always caused when a muscular strain happens.

A herniated disc is often caused by repetitive motion or improper lifting and is a compression of the spinal nerves right where they exit the spinal column. Sciatica, which is pain felt at the site of the back injury and along the affected nerve, is often the result of a herniated disc.

Osteoporosis and spinal stenosis are two other causes of back pain that often affect people over the age of fifty. Osteoporosis is a progressive disease which causes a loss of bone density. The bones of the spinal column are often affected, which results in painful vertebral compression fractures. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. The pain from this condition often worsens with extended periods of walking.

Fibromyalgia is another common cause of chronic back pain. This is a condition characterized by intense muscle pain, making it difficult to do every day activities. These are just a few of the causes of back pain.

Dealing with Back Pain

Whether it is caused by an injury or a chronic condition, back pain causes a major drop in life quality. Our speed, flexibility, strength, endurance and overall health can be influenced by pain. Depending on the source of the pain, medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs or muscle relaxants can be used, as well as topical therapies such as massage, acupuncture, and heat therapy. Heat therapy is especially soothing, is easy to use, and is very inexpensive. It can be applied to almost every variant of back pain with a large degree of success especially when using wheat bags or heat pads.

Upper and Middle Back and Neck Pain

These two areas of the back are frequently lumped together in terms of back pain because they are often attributed to the same causes. Neck or shoulder injuries such as whiplash, dislocations, tendinitis, herniated discs or pinched nerves are common upper back and neck complaints. Use a warm microwavable heat pack or wheat bag on the area for several minutes and then alternate with a cold pack, then repeat. This kind of home treatment will dilate the blood vessels in the area to promote healing, decrease localized pain, and loosen up tensed muscles and tendons.

Lower Back Pain

The lower back, or the lumbar spine, is one of the most frequently injured areas of the body. It is also one of the most difficult areas to treat effectively for back pain, also called lumbago. Many lower pack complaints are a result of injury, such as sprains, strains, ligament tears and vertebral disc damage and herniation. These soft tissues are prone to re-injury, as they never heal back as strong as they were prior to the injury. These injuries can be aggravated by weight, such as during pregnancy and obesity. Applying a warm heat pack to the lower back can relieve pain.

Tailbone or Pelvic Back Pain

The tailbone, or coccyx, can be a source of pain for many. Sitting down too abruptly, falling from a height onto the tailbone, and sitting in one place for extended times can all aggravate the nerves attached to the coccyx or cause actual damage to it. A broken tailbone normally heals on its own, but if infection sets in or the fracture heals too slowly, it may need to be removed surgically. Inflammation can be relieved by heat and cold therapy applied directly to the affected area. This will, coupled with anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen, relieve the pain.

Heat and Back Pain

Heat therapy has a prominent role in the home and professional treatment of back pain. Physical therapists and chiropractors routinely apply warm heat packs to an injured back prior to utilizing other treatments, because the heat reduces surface pain, increases circulation, and loosens cramped or spastic muscles. After treatment, the injured person is normally prescribed a course of alternating heat and cold treatments, which encourages healing, diminishes pain and reduces swelling.

Using a microwave heat pad or wheat bag is beneficial as heat dilates the blood vessels, which causes an increase in blood flow. Because back pain is often the result of excess tension or tears in the muscle, an increase in blood flow to these muscles help in healing. The blood helps bring oxygen, protein, and nutrients to these damaged muscles, speeding healing. Heat also helps decrease the transmission of pain signals to the brain, relieving discomfort. It also helps improve flexibility and decrease stiffness. In doing so, using a wheat bag for heat therapy reduces the chances of further injury.

Back pain afflicts millions of people in the UK and all over the world, sapping valuable energy, causing missed work and lowering the overall quality of life for its sufferers. Although other medical interventions may be necessary, the role of heat therapy on alleviating back pain cannot be over-emphasized. Utilizing a simply microwavable heat pad or wheat bag can bring great relief and help those with back pain begin to enjoy life again.