How hot therapy can offer relief for neck or back pain

Hot therapy, also called thermotherapy, is the nonsurgical process of applying a heat source to an injured body part. The aim of hot therapy is to increase circulation to the affected area to better deliver nutrients and oxygen and aid in generating new bone and soft tissue. Heat also stimulates temperature receptors, which can keep the brain from receiving neural pain signals.

Hot therapy is often combined with cold therapy, which can be used to reduce inflammation. Every time hot therapy is used, be sure to place a buffering material between the heat source and your skin, especially when chronic skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema are present, to avoid any additional irritation.

Types of hot therapy

After consultation with your doctor, there are a variety of ways to integrate hot therapy into an overall neck or back pain treatment plan for conditions like degenerative disc disease or facet disease:

  • Superficial hot therapy. This approach works on the skin and tissues just under the skin. Examples include electric heating pads, paraffin baths, hot water bottles. Hydrotherapy can also take the form of hot whirlpools, topical heating creams and infrared heat therapy rooms.
  • Deep hot therapy. This refers to hot therapy that is directed toward deep tissues and muscles. Infrared heat therapy rooms and hydrotherapy can also be considered deep hot therapy. Other forms include ultrasound and diathermy, which focus heat on the affected area through high-frequency sound waves and electrode drums, respectively.

Combining hot therapy with other nonsurgical treatments

It is important that you consult a physician before using hot therapy as a form of pain management for chronic neck or back pain. Incorrect application has a chance to cause injury. When consulting a physician, also ask about combining hot therapy with cold therapy or using pain medication, back braces, acupuncture and massage. In addition, there are a variety of low-impact activities that have proven effective in the treatment of neck and back pain, including yoga, swimming, exercise ball therapy, recumbent exercise bikes and elliptical trainers. However, keep in mind that an exercise program should never be attempted without your doctor’s approval if you have been diagnosed with a spine condition.

While conservative treatments like thermotherapy can often provide relief, surgery may become an option if weeks or months go by without sufficiently relieving symptoms. If you are being recommended for surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute today. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is a safer and effective alternative to traditional procedures, offering patients a shorter recovery and less risk of complication.^

We can help you receive a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.