According to experts, around 80% of low back pain is muscle pain. When it is hot, the muscle relaxes and the pain decreases. (Image: Prostock-studio / stock.adobe.com)
Heat relieves back pain
Back pain is one of the most common types of pain in Western society and has become a very common disease. Mild pain and tension can often be relieved with heat, for example with a heated cherry stone pillow or hot water bottle. Chili can also help.
If you have tension, warming creams or bandages can be a relief. But why are they doing us so well? Pain expert explains what’s behind it – and why caution is sometimes required.
Why the heat helps
Heat in the form of ointments or plasters often helps relieve back pain. But why? “Basically, around 80 percent of back pain is muscle pain that is based on tension and imbalance,” explains orthopedic professor Hans-Raimund Casser. “A muscle reacts positively to heat, it relaxes and then the pain decreases,” explains the medical director of the DRK pain center in Mainz.
Some also use cherry stone pillows, which can be warmed up and placed on the back. Anything goes and is possible as long as it doesn’t burn the skin, says Casser, who sits on the executive committee of the German Pain Society. Hot water bottles are often too hot.
Beware of disturbed pain sensation
People with disturbed pain sensitivity should be careful – diabetics, for example. It may be too late to notice that your skin is damaged by heat. In the case of injuries or inflammation on the skin – for example as a result of an insect bite – the warming measures are usually not good, says Casser.
Special plasters and ointments contain pain relievers and some anti-inflammatory drugs. Non-prescription drugs would work an inch or two under the skin. “If you know that most disorders are not that superficial, you only tackle the symptoms and not the cause of the pain,” the doctor explains. But that’s okay too.
Casts are generally a little more effective
In general, dressings are a bit more effective than creams, says Casser, because they have an insulating layer on the outside, which increases their effect on the inside. There are also plasters that contain a very high proportion of capsaicin pepper extract, which can be used for neuropathic pain. For example, when the intervertebral discs put pressure on the nerves. “They also have a deeper effect and reduce pain receptors,” explains the expert. However, due to their powerful effects, the patches should be used under medical supervision.
Why does heat also affect the nerves and not just the muscles? According to Casser, the pain conductors (C fibers) are the finest nerve fibers we have – and they’re responsible for both temperature and pain perception. “This means that the sensation of pain caused by cold and hot stimuli can be suppressed.” (Announcement; source: dpa / tmn)
Author and source information
This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. It cannot replace a visit to the doctor.