Ice or Heat for back pain?


Joint and muscular pain is experienced by many people due to our hectic lifestyles. When you are injured ice and / or heat may play a vital role for a speedy recovery.

Generally, ice is recommended for a new “acute” injury and heat is recommended for a long term injury or “chronic” conditions.

The Inflammation Response

The inflammation response is a natural and normal response to promote healing.

If you are unfortunate to hurt yourself by a traumatic injury, bacterial infection, toxins and/or heat injury, the affected cells release chemicals which results in the blood vessels to leak fluid into surrounding tissues (swelling).

This fluid acts are a protective mechanism to prevent further injury to the tissue.


When ice is applied it minimizes the inflammatory response around the injured area by restricting the blood flow and therefore reducing inflammation and swelling.

* Remember swelling and inflammation is a normal response to an injury and the increase blood flow to the injured area is part of the natural healing process. This is why reducing blood flow to the injured area maybe harmful in certain circumstances.


We generally apply heat for tight muscles and chronic pain.  Chronic pain is when you can’t pin point a painful area (e.g: “My whole back is painful). When heat is applied to an injury it:

  • increases blood flow
  • helps relax tight muscles
  • improved mobility

* When you increase blood flow to an injury you may observe more swelling around the injured area. During the inflammation process, fluid from the blood vessels seeps through to protect the injury – this may cause increased pain in the affected area.


  • immediately after an acute injury to reduce pain and swelling to the affect area.


  • for chronic/long term injuries
  • injuries which involve a feeling of muscle tightness, stiffness or tension.
  • arthritic conditions to relieve some of the pain and stiffness.
  • For generalised aches and pains, tightness/tension due to stress or post-exercise stiffness.


Application with an ice pack:

  • 10 minutes on, then 10 minutes off for 2 hours.
  • Repeat the process again after 2 hours
  • You may choose to wrap the ice pack in a tea towel.

*If you feel numb or see the injured starting to look red, immediately stop icing & start the “10 minute off cycle”. Applying ice for extended periods of time may burn the skin.


Application with a wheat bag/hot water bottle:

  • Heat the wheat bag in the microwave for 2-3 minutes with a glass/mug of water sitting next to the bag (this stops wheat drying out and burning).
  • Don’t over heat the bag
  • Place on the affected area for 20 minutes or until wheat bag becomes cool.


Do not use heat or cold packs:

  • Over areas of skin that are in poor condition.
  • Over areas of skin with poor sensation to heat or cold.
  • Over areas of the body with known poor circulation.
  • If you have advanced stage diabetes.
  • In the presence of infection.

At Sims & Finn our chiropractors utilise Neuro-structural correction which may help address your concerns.

We focus on finding and correcting the primary cause of your symptoms.

Along the way, our chiropractors will equip you with the knowledge and tools to be able to create habits that strengthen your spine.