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Q. Is there anything I can do now to help ease my pain?
A. Something you can do right away to relieve your pain is to use heat or ice. Cold treatments are usually used right after back pain or injury begins. The cold temperature makes the blood vessels in the sore area vasoconstrict (vase-oh-con-strct) (become narrower). This helps your body in the initial stages of healing. Cold treatments can include cold packs or ice bags, which are generally put on the sore area for 10 to 15 minutes.
Heat can be used after the early stages of healing are over - usually at least two or three days after the injury or pain began. Heat makes blood vessels vasodilate (vase-oh-dye-late) (get larger). This helps your body flush away chemicals that can cause pain. It also helps to bring in nutrients and oxygen, which help the area heal. True heat in the form of a moist hot pack, a heating pad, or warm shower or bath, is better than creams that give the feeling of heat. Hot packs are usually placed on the sore area for 15 to 20 minutes. Be careful that your skin does not overheat and burn. It is also not a good idea to sleep with an electric heating pad at night, which can lead to the "lobster effect" where your skin turns red and actually burns from the prolonged heat.