Is it better to use a hot or a cold compress to relieve disc protrusion pain?

Hot and cold compresses can provide temporary but effective relief from pain associated with a disc protrusion. These relatively simple and inexpensive treatments can be easily used at home — or virtually anywhere else — when neck or back pain strikes and fast relief is needed. However, in order to achieve maximum benefits, it’s important to know whether to apply heat or ice in specific situations.

How to use cold therapy to relieve disc protrusion pain

In general, cold therapy is most effective when applied within 24-72 hours of a neck or back injury or the onset of pain. The application of cold to a painful area can help reduce inflammation, numb sore tissues and, in turn, provide disc protrusion pain relief.

When thinking of cold therapy, some people envision a traditional ice pack, but there are other options as well. For instance, a bag of frozen vegetables, icy towel or cool gel pack can also do the job. Regardless of which option is used, it’s important to place a cloth between the skin and the cold source and to limit each application to 20 minutes or less to avoid irritation. Other than that, cold therapy can be safely utilized as often as needed.

How to use heat therapy to relieve disc protrusion pain

Once the initial inflammation associated with a disc protrusion has begun to subside, heat therapy can be used to stimulate healing in the damaged disc. In addition to promoting relaxation and reducing stiffness, the application of warmth can increase the flow of blood and nutrients to an injured area, and also inhibit the transmission of pain signals from nearby nerves.

Two types of heat therapy can be used for disc protrusion pain relief: dry heat and moist heat. While some people prefer to use dry heat because they find it to be easier to work with, this option may leave the skin in the treated area feeling dry and dehydrated, while moist heat will not have that effect. Additionally, moist heat offers a further benefit in that it can penetrate damaged tissues more deeply than dry heat.

Severe disc protrusion symptoms that do not respond to hot and cold therapy and other nonsurgical approaches may require more advanced treatment. For instance, Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive outpatient surgery as a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery for disc protrusion pain relief.^ Contact us to learn more and to request a no-cost MRI review.* Our caring team can help you determine if you are a candidate for a minimally invasive procedure.