Applying heat to an injured area of the back and the surrounding muscles can be a great tool to help reduce lower back pain. Heat is a healing agent that causes vasodilatation to the vessels surrounding the area. What vasodilatation means is that the blood vessels open up and allow an increase in the blood flow to the area where the heat is being applied.
With increase in blood flow, the muscles surrounding the area where the heat is become more relaxed and less stiff. Muscles will become more responsive to stretching and strengthening exercises. Muscles can become stiff and tight due to protecting the area of injury or if muscles have been overused or over worked.
When muscles are stiff and tight due to protecting an area from injury, your body will create compensatory movement patterns to not involve the injured area. When that happens, other muscles get overworked and that can create additional stress and pain. We can heal an area faster once we get the muscles to start working normally again.
Heat should generally be used 3 to 4 days after the initial accident, pain, slip and fall or trauma. Heat can be applied with a moist heat pack, heating pad, Jacuzzi, hot shower or steam room. A moist heat pack is better than a heating pad because it causes heat to transfer from the moist heat pack to the body. A heating pad just warms up and there is no transfer of heat. A Jacuzzi (בריכות ספא), hot shower and steam room are other great ways to heat up the whole body if you have the access to them.
Check with your physician before using a Jacuzzi or steam room especially if you have a cardiac history. After heating up the entire body or just the affected area, it is best to perform the exercises and stretches that will begin stabilizing and stretching the affected area.
Heat should be applied by moist heat pack for 10 minutes every hour to hour and a half. If you use a shower or Jacuzzi (ג׳קוזי לחצר), you will only need to be in for 3-5 minutes because your core body temperature will increase and your muscles will become more pliable and flexible. If you use a steam room, 3-4 minutes is all you need.