I’m gonna come right out and say it… your hot water bottle is making you worse.
Gasp! Sorry, it’s true. Probably.
The instinctive thing to do it seems, when we’re in pain, is to put heat on it. It’s comforting. Perhaps it reminds us of when we got ill as a chid and our mother gave us a hot water bottle, or maybe it’s just a cultural habit that seems to have stuck around.
The problem is, when it hurts quite a lot, say more than 5/10; especially if it’s come on fairly quickly, then there’s probably inflammation going on which is causing the pain.
When you heat inflammation you get… more inflammation.
Heat often does feel good at the time, and a hot bath can loosen the tight muscles up; but you might actually be making the pain last a lot longer, maybe even for days instead of hours.
If it’s just a mild ache and you’re feeling a bit stiff, heat can be the right choice. But if you’re not sure, the best thing is to stick a cold pack on instead.
I know! It’s not half as appealing as a nice toasty water bottle or a hot bath, but trust me it works.
We stock the professional gel packs that bend to fit the area of your body, and you can use them many times over. But if you don’t have a proper cold pack, get the frozen peas out.
IMPORTANT: you must cover it with a tea towel or similar, and not put it directly on your skin. Otherwise you’ll just blister the skin and potentially damage the tissues. Not what we’re going for.
Keep it on for 15-20 mins, put it back in the freezer, and repeat as often as you need to (with an hour or so in between).
If you’re unsure, just ask your chiropractor. But if you stick to this golden rule (Ice not Heat), you could save yourself a lot of pain!
Dr Mike Cassidy-Hogg is a doctor of chiropractic and health educator, who provides simple innovative solutions to common problems.
Doctor of Chiropractic at Align