It's All About the Blood Vessels
The doctor wrote you prescriptions for four different medications and then told you to use a heating pad several times a day. You are not doing well at all, and want to know if you are doing things the right way. Of course the medications are not helping you get better. They are masking the symptom so that you can live with it while it is supposedly healing. Unfortunately they are not doing a very good job of doing even that. But the medications are another topic for another day. What I want to discuss with you right now is the difference between using ice and heat, and when one is better than the other.
IF I HURT MY BACK DO I USE ICE OR HEAT?
This causes leaking of fluid into the tissue itself (swelling). The group of Immune System chemicals (INFLAMMATION) that are released due to this tissue injury, attract fluid (swelling) to the area. It is important to remember that swelling and inflammation, while intimately related to each other, are not synonymous terms. Although Inflammation is necessary for the healing process to take place, too much of it is bad news as far as pain is concerned. This is why you need to use ice --- even if it does not immediately help with your pain.
Ice is a vasoconstrictor ---- it closes down the smallest blood vessels in the torn tissue so that less fluid and chemicals leak out. The result is less swelling and Inflammation --- and hopefully less pain. If you are going to use heat for your back, I almost always recommend a "global" heat. In other words, don't put the heat pack on your low back because that will attract fluid (swelling) to that area. Instead, get in a bath, shower, jacuzzi, etc. The larger the area you heat, the less chance of swelling a local area.