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Heat or Cold for back pain

Kris-NYKris-NY Posts: 2,207
edited 06/11/2012 - 1:40 PM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
64,000 dollar question - 4 days after surgery I am feeling the ache and pull in my back. I have a 5 inch incision starting at the base of my neck and going down between shoulder blades.

So Ice or Heat? Don't think I would hurt anything - just wondering if anyone has a good answer for this one.


  • BOTH. You'd probably want to rely on the ice more to keep the inflammation down, but a little stint of heat helps the body to "pump" excess fluids out of the area. Heat allows expansion of the tissues, ice causes the tissues to contract. If you alternate the heat and ice, you set up a nice little pumping system. No sleeping on a heating pad -- you can burn yourself badly.

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • I was told to just use ice so soon after surgery or any procedure such as an ESI or nerve block. But what Linda says about alternating between ice and heat is true. If you are in pain ice usually makes the area feel better. Heat draws the blood to the surface and can cause the incision to throb. Also, you are trying to minimize all inflammation, both around the incision and inside as well.

    How are you feeling? The first week is the worst....It does get better.

  • dilaurodilauro New Milford, CT 06776Posts: 8,769
    is ICE for the first 24-48 hours. Then after that it is heat.
    But that is just a guideline. I have used both within the same day. Manytimes I use heat to soothe some of the discomfort and then use Ice to numb the area.
    Ron DiLauro     Spine-Health System Administrator

    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com

  • I was told the same thing as Ron.
    Good luck on your healing >:D<

  • only b/c they want incision inflammation to go down. I was also told no soaking in a tub for 2 weeks but that heat was ok b/c it helps circulation.

    It's small intervals of each. I found heat helped with aches of the surgery (so overall fatigue) but ice really helped with incision pain.
  • Well I took off the bandage and the incision looks great! Not swollen at all. I do look like Frakenstein's monster with all the staples.

    I am going to try heat tonite for a little relief. Probably did to much today and no naps. Yeah!

  • I have had a great deal of pain/burning/numbness this week. My PT has me doing heat in the morning, and ice at night, since I really struggle with getting control of the pain in the evenings.


  • So sorry that you have had a bad week with lots of pain. Hopefully, it is just a blip along the way, and next week you'll improve again.

    Take care.
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