If you have back or neck pain, one of the simplest and most budget-friendly ways to ease your discomfort is with ice and heat. You can even create a homemade ice pack or moist heat pack that can be conveniently reused. Here’s what you need to do.
Cold therapy minimizes swelling, pain, and inflammation. While you may be tempted to grab a bag of frozen peas out of the freezer, an ice pack might be more comfortable. Plus, it’s easier to contour to the shape of the affected area.
You’ll need a quart- or gallon-sized plastic freezer bag, a few cups of water, and a cup of rubbing alcohol. You’ll then take the following steps:
• Fill the freezer bag with water and rubbing alcohol
• Remove excess air from the bag before you seal it
• Put the bag inside another freezer bag to prevent leaks
• Place the bag in the freezer for about an hour
• Use a towel between the pack and your skin when your homemade ice pack is ready
Dish soap can be used instead of rubbing alcohol because it has a gel-like consistency, and it retains the cold well. Another option is to freeze water in a Styrofoam cup and have someone apply it to the affected area with some type of barrier between the ice and your skin.
Heat therapy works by boosting circulation within the affected area. Heat also has a soothing effect, which could reduce pain while also facilitating your body’s natural healing processes. Heat can be dry—like what you get from a heating pad—or moist. Moist heat packs tend to be more hydrating for the skin, and the heat tends to be absorbed better.
You’ll need some type of cloth container, such as a sock, a piece of fabric, or a small pillowcase. You’ll also need a filling, which can be oatmeal, uncooked rice, or anything with a similar consistency. While optional, a needle and thread can come in handy as well. Here’s what you’ll do next:
• Add your preferred filling to your sock or other fabric container
• Sew or tie your fabric container shut
• Microwave it for a few minutes
• Check to make sure it’s not too hot
• Apply it to the affected area
With both ice and heat packs, limit applications to 15–20 minutes at a time. Take a break for a few hours between applications to prevent skin damage. Ice is generally most effective within the first few days after discomfort starts, especially if there’s visible swelling. As for what works best, it’s a matter of preference. One option is to alternate between ice and heat. Feel free to do some experimenting to see what helps you most.
If your homemade heat and ice packs don’t provide sufficient relief for your back or neck pain, see your doctor or a Los Angeles spine surgeon. You could also benefit from a combination of medication and physical therapy techniques, such as massage therapy, therapeutic injections, and targeted exercises.
If you’re having prolonged or severe pain in your back or neck, get in touch with the physicians at The Spine Institute. Whether they require medication, physical therapy, or a procedure such as spinal fusion surgery, Los Angeles patients can rely on the experience and expertise of our pioneering doctors to help them find relief from their pain. Call us today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.