Is the application of heat or ice the best treatment for a pinched nerve in the spine?

Physician discussing treatment options with patient

Hot/cold therapy is a simple, at-home pinched nerve treatment that can provide temporary relief from pain and inflammation in the spine. However, the application of heat produces a different response than the application of ice, and while both can be effective, it’s important to know which one to use to produce the desired result.

Ice for a pinched nerve

Ice is used to reduce inflammation. Placing a cold pack on your neck or back near the location of your pinched nerve can help alleviate swelling and discomfort. To avoid irritating your skin, be sure to wrap the ice pack in a soft fabric or towel. Holding the ice in place for 10 to 15 minutes is typically enough to provide relief.

Heat for a pinched nerve

While cold contracts blood vessels, heat relaxes them. Therefore, heat can help relax tired muscles and alleviate tension. Hot packs can also provide relief from sudden muscle spasms. Again, 10 to 15 minutes of heat application should be adequate for at-home pinched nerve treatment.

Combining heat with ice

While cold therapy and heat therapy work differently, many people find that both have a place in their pinched nerve treatment plan. Physicians often recommend that patients explore both to determine which produces the best results. There’s no rule that you must use just one and not the other — the goal is to find the combination of options that works best for you.

For many individuals, conservative treatments like hot/cold therapy provide significant relief, although the results tend to be temporary. Some people, however, don’t find the relief they need and opt for surgical treatment instead.

For these individuals, it may be beneficial to consider Laser Spine Institute’s minimally invasive surgeries. These outpatient procedures offer many advantages when compared to traditional pinched nerve surgery.^ To learn more about these treatment options, contact Laser Spine Institute today.

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