How long should you ice a spinal pinched nerve?

A pinched nerve can be excruciating. If you’re experiencing extreme pain due to a compressed nerve in your neck or back, there are a number of conservative treatment options that may provide some relief from your symptoms. One of the most frequently recommended strategies is the application of ice to the injury site. Icing, which is a safe, effective and drugless way to address pinched nerve pain, works in two ways. First, it decreases inflammation, potentially reducing some of the pressure on the affected nerve. Second, it numbs the surrounding tissue, lessening pain. To properly apply a cold compress, first wrap the ice in a towel or some other type of fabric. Do not place ice directly on the skin as it can cause irritation and even frostbite. Keep the cold pack in place for 10 to 15 minutes and repeat the procedure four times a day.

It’s important to keep in mind that cold therapy is most effective for a pinched nerve that’s the result of soft tissue inflammation. Examples of this include a compressed nerve in the neck due to whiplash or one in the lower back caused by a fall. Although heat is often used in conjunction with ice, avoid warm compresses for the first 48 to 72 hours after an injury, as it will increase blood flow to the site and cause further inflammation. Later, when the initial swelling has diminished, heat can be introduced as a way to sooth and relax muscles after an application of ice.

Other conservative and alternative treatment options for pinched spinal nerves include:

  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen, ibuprofen and aspirin
  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic manipulation
  • Deep tissue massage
  • Lifestyle changes such as weight loss
  • Low-impact exercises and gentle stretching
  • Neck or back braces

Many patients can effectively manage pinched nerve symptoms using a combination of these treatments. In some cases, however, more advanced options are required to provide long-term relief from chronic pain. If you’ve been diagnosed with a pinched spinal nerve and are still experiencing significant discomfort even after months of conservative and alternative pain-management strategies, you may want to consider surgery as your next option.

Laser Spine Institute is the leader in minimally invasive surgery, which is often clinically appropriate and provides many advantages versus open neck or back surgery.^ If you are wondering whether you might be a candidate for our outpatient procedures, the first step is to obtain a free MRI review.* Contact a member of our team today to learn more.

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