Lower Back: Heat Soothes and Releases Painful Tension
Low time investment3
Moderate, steady warmth is ideal. Apply a hot pack, an electric heating pad, or a damp, hot towel to soothe and relax the lower back muscles. Also try a hot bath or homemade dry rice heating bag. (Real heat is very different than topical “warming” creams that will soothe or distract skin nerves from pain, but do not increase the temperature.)
- Potential relief: 3 - The right level of heat can often relieve roughly half of symptoms.
- Universality: 4 - Generally, use heat for tension that is NOT inflamed. Most lower back pain is not caused by inflammation or injury, but by over-contracted muscles. Of course, get a diagnosis if unsure. Heat may help relieve most cramps, especially if ice does not help it. Typically, heat relieves achy tension from poor posture. Heat is often far better than ice for “knots” and trigger points, when there’s no other fresh injury or inflammatory condition.
- Ease: 5 – Easy! Microwave a wet towel or hot pack, or find a heating pad (or bathtub). Apply heat. Don’t burn yourself, especially if you have a condition that reduces nerve sensation around the lower back.
- Low cost: 5 – It’s essentially free to wet a hand towel, wring out excess water, then microwave it for about a minute. Learn online how to make your own microwaveable hot packs! E.g. use a sock and dry rice, or a moist heat pack that conveys heat better, or even purchase bulk instant hot packs that are large enough. Or, buy a medium to large reusable heating (/cooling) pack. Plus, for sustained heat I really like heating pads.
- Low time investment: 3 – It takes a few minutes for increased blood flow, warmth, and relaxation. Heating pads can be left on for much longer, like 20 minutes or longer if only set to a low or moderate temperature.
- Comfort: 5 – Moderate heat feels great.