Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. For example, heat or cold therapy can provide a surprising amount of pain relief for most types of back and neck pain.
Muscle strains and pulls are some of the most common causes of back pain, and can be soothed with heat and cold therapy.
- Cold packs help reduce inflammation and numb a painful area.
- Heat packs help increase circulation to a specific area of the body and can promote healing.
It's easy to make a hot or cold pack with materials you already have at home. Making hot or cold packs yourself is convenient, because one will be ready whenever you need it, and it could save you some money.
Homemade gel ice packs
These homemade gel ice packs are more comfortable than a bag of frozen peas, because they mold better to your body without the lumps and bumps. They can be made for under $3.
What you need:
- 1 quart or 1 gallon plastic freezer bags (depending on how large you want the cold pack)
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup rubbing alcohol
- Fill the plastic freezer bag with 1 cup of rubbing alcohol and 2 cups of water.
- Try to get as much air out of the freezer bag before sealing it shut.
- Place the bag and its contents inside a second freezer bag to contain any leakage.
- Leave the bag in the freezer for at least an hour.
- When it's ready, place a towel between the gel pack and bare skin to avoid burning the skin.
Another way to apply ice to the back is by freezing water in a cup, and then rubbing it on the affected back muscles to reduce inflammation.
Homemade moist heat packs
Heat therapy increases circulation to aching muscles, and provides pain relief. There are two types of heat therapy, dry and moist.
Electric heating pads bring a dry heat, which some people find to be less comforting than moist heat. Moist heat packs are less dehydrating to the skin, and they allow heat to absorb better into the skin and relieve pain faster.
What you need:
- Cloth container (sock, fabric)
- 4-6 cups filling (e.g. uncooked rice, flax seed, buckwheat, oatmeal)
- Needle and thread (optional, but recommended)
- Flair (ribbon, fragrant oils; optional)
- Fill your container with the filling.
- Tie or sew the container shut.
- Add soothing aromatherapy before you microwave, if you want.
- Microwave container for 1-3 minutes.
Whether you are using cold or heat therapy, do not apply them for more than 15 minutes at a time. The best way to apply either heat or cold is to alternate 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off for an hour or two.
- For another easy DIY project for back pain relief, see How Tennis Balls and Duct Tape Can Morph into a Do-It-Yourself Massage for Lower Back Pain