How to Use Heat for Lower Back Pain Relief

With so many advancements in the treatment of lower back pain, heat therapy is often overlooked. But heat therapy can provide meaningful relief in a short amount of time—and best of all it is easy to do.

woman receiving heat therapy on her back Heat therapy is typically combined with other treatments—like exercise and physical therapy.
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Benefits of Heat Therapy for Lower Back Pain

Here is how to use heat therapy to help you find relief from your lower back pain:

See Lower Back Pain Treatment

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How much heat do I need?

Before we talk about how to apply heat therapy to your lower back, let’s quickly look at the best temperature for heat therapy. Ideally, any type of heat therapy should be at a warm temperature—as too high of a heat can burn your skin. In contrast, a warm temperature will allow the heat to penetrate down into your lower back muscles without damaging your skin.

See Pulled Back Muscle and Lower Back Strain

How to apply heat therapy

As a general rule, the more severe your lower back injury the longer your heat therapy session needs to last. For example, if you have minor back tension you may only need a 15 to 20 minute session. But if your injury is serious, you may need 30 minutes to 2 hours.

There are numerous options for the application of this warmth, including dry heat like an electric heating pad. Or if you prefer moist heat, you can try a steamed towel.

Watch: Video: How to Make a Moist Heat Pack

Additionally, you can try any of the following options:

  • Hot water bottle
  • Heated gel pack
  • Heat wrap
  • Warm bath

See Heat Wrap Therapy Can Reduce Post-Exercise Low Back Pain

No one heat therapy option is necessarily better than another, so it is best to experiment with moist and dry options until you find the one that works best for you.

As a final note, make sure you place a towel or other form of insulation between yourself and the source of heat to prevent burns.

See How to Apply Heat Therapy

When to avoid heat therapy

It is best to avoid heat therapy if your back is swollen or bruised. Instead, you should typically apply ice to the injured area.

See Ice Massage for Back Pain Relief

If you have heart disease or hypertension, it’s best to speak with your doctor before starting heat therapy. Also, people with dermatitis, diabetes, or an open wound should forgo applying heat to their lower backs.

See Primary Care Providers

Compared to other treatment options, heat therapy may seem too simple. But give it a try and you may find significant relief from your lower back pain.

See Back Care for Lower Back Pain

Learn more:

Lower Back Pain Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Pulled Back Muscle Treatment

Post written by Andrew Moeller