Hot water bottles: how do they treat back pain?

Dr. Gregory Stoltz

July 10, 2021

Why this old fashioned method works

The use of hot water bottles for pain dates back to before your grandmother was born. It is one of those old remedies that are reliable and effective enough to still be used today.

Are you experiencing back pain? Don’t let pain ruin your day, check out this guide to see if hot water bottles would help alleviate your back pain.

Making a homemade hot water bottle

If you are in pain and want to find relief but do not have a hot water bottle, you can put together a homemade one quickly and easily. Here are a few methods for making homemade hot water bottles.

A high-quality plastic zipper bag that is quart or gallon-sized makes a good vessel for warm water. Fill it up halfway, zip it up, and double it up to make sure that it does not leak.

Though it will not be flexible, you can also use a plastic water bottle filled with warm water if you are in a pinch.

Areas that hot water bottles heal

Though the lower back is the most commonplace to use a hot water bottle, you could very well use it on your mid or upper back, or wherever you feel discomfort. It is very soothing when placed on the tummy!

  • Muscular pain
  • Joint pain
  • Nerve pain
  • Injury recovery

Just be sure not to use heat on any area that has visible swelling, as this can worsen the swelling. Always apply cold to reduce swelling.

If you are unsure as to whether you should use a hot water bottle for your circumstances it is best to consult with your doctor, physical therapist, or chiropractor before using it.

How to use a hot water bottle

The best time to use a hot water bottle is when you can sit and relax while you do it, but if you have to strap it on while you work so be it.

Heat your water on the stove and use a funnel to assist you while pouring it into your hot water bottle then put the cap on. It is best to have a layer of fabric between the bottle and your skin whether that be a thin towel or your shirt.

You can lie down on your stomach and place the bottle flat on your back, place it in between you and the back of a chair or lie down on top of it. But, be mindful that too much pressure on the bottle could pop the top off and cause it to leak.

Proper temperature of hot water

Using certain temperature water in your hot water bottle ensures that not only will you not burn your skin, but that it will be effective, and also that it will not melt or deteriorate the rubber that the hot water bottle is made of.

A thermometer can help you make sure that you’ve got it at just the right temperature (42degrees C.) But you can use a cover if it is too hot for your liking.

When not to use a hot water bottle

Are there times when you should not use a hot water bottle?

  • Sprains
  • Strains
  • Inflammation
  • Dislocations
  • Fractures
  • On sunburns or other burns

Though a hot water bottle has a relatively low risk of side effects, there are times when heat is counterproductive.

How do hot water bottles treat back pain?

Hot water bottles are effective at relieving certain types of pain because heat relaxes tense muscles and opens blood vessels to improve blood flow.

Heat, in general, is relaxing, and applying it to localized pain such as back pain with a hot water bottle can relieve cramps, tense muscles, and many other types of aches.

Alternating hot and cold

There are certain types of injuries and ailments that require both hot and cold therapy. You can do this in increments of 5-10 minutes each with a few rounds of alternating hot and cold water bottles.

The general rule is in the 48 hours following an injury you should use both hot and cold therapy starting with cold, and then heat. The cold will reduce inflammation, and the heat will improve blood flow.

This is called contrast therapy and can be extremely effective for healing and reducing pain. This technique is used after sporting events by professional athletes to help recovery and to keep the pain away.

Causes of back pain

Sometimes the cause of back pain is unknown. But, even mysterious back pain can be treated with heat.

Back pain can stem from a long list of sources such as:

  • Accidents or car accidents
  • Injury
  • Falls
  • Being overweight
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Age
  • Athletic
  • Stress
  • Arthritis

Taking care of ourselves means regular exercise, a healthy diet, lowering stress, and visiting a doctor when necessary. When we neglect our health we tend to see more aches and pains pop up.

Why visiting a physiotherapist or chiropractor can help

Going for physiotherapy sessions helps to address pain and recovery from injury or surgery through physical therapy, stretches, and rehabilitation through the science of movement.

A chiropractor helps with all types of pain, especially back pain by assessing the patient with an examination, testing, and sometimes x-rays. Throughout several sessions, a chiropractor will adjust misalignments in the body and spine to relieve tense muscles, impingements, and disk problems.

These professionals are also a great source of knowledge and can help to educate you as to why you are in pain and what you do together to fix it, and what you can do on your own, as well.

When it’s time to call the professionals

Along with the use of hot water bottles, home stretches, exercises and visits to a physiotherapist and/or chiropractor you can start to see real relief from your back pain.

You may even be referred to a massage therapist for a relaxing massage. Massage therapy is incredibly helpful for muscular pain, especially back pain.

In addition to pain relief, the quality of your life will improve once you are no longer suffering and going through the miserable ischemic pain cycle. Imagine your life pain-free.

Taking a step towards recovery

Stop suffering, and start addressing your back pain with hot water bottles and a trip to the Physiotherapist and/or Chiropractor’s office for a professional assessment and treatments.

Click to contact us at Elysian Wellness Center where our mission is to keep you moving.

Dr. Gregory Stoltz - Chiropractor

July 10, 2021

With his extensive education and experience, Dr. Gregory Stoltz brings a wealth of medical, biomechanical and physiological knowledge to every patient he treats. Dr. Stoltz completed his Doctor of Chiropractic degree at New York Chiropractic College in Seneca Falls, New York.