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Lower Spine News

All-Night Heat May Give Low Back Pain Sufferers All-Day Relief

Electric heating pads and other heat treatments can soothe low back pain. However, they either get too cold in the wee hours of the morning, or they get so hot that they can burn the skin.

These authors tested a new type of wrap that keeps a low level of heat on the back muscles, and the wrap can be worn all night. The results were promising.

Patients with moderate to severe low back pain were tested for pain, muscle stiffness, flexibility when bending over, and disability level. The patients either took a fake pill and wore a heat wrap overnight, or they took ibuprofen and wore a sham (unheated) wrap.

All patients went through three days of treatment and two more days of measurements. Patients who wore the heat wrap did better overall in every category. Nearly everyone in the heat wrap group (90 percent) showed improvement in morning pain relief. They also had about 25 percent less muscle stiffness, an 18 percent increase in flexibility, and a 40 percent decrease in disability.

The group who wore the heat wrap also reported better and more restful sleep. The researchers suggest that this is one of the reasons the continuous heat therapy was successful. Good sleep can be very important in healing and recovery, and patients with low back pain often report problems sleeping. The authors suggest more research is needed combining night and daytime continuous heat wrap treatments.


Scott F. Nadler, DO, et al. Overnight Use of Continuous Low-Level Heatwrap Therapy for Relief of Low Back Pain. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. March 2003. Vol. 84. No. 3. Pp. 335-342.

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