Chiropractor, Dr. Alex Jimenez shares some how-to advice on taking hot baths for back tension and pain. A bath can be a wonderful and fulfilling experience in self-care for back pain. There are medical benefits from taking a hot bath, as well. A hot bath can be extremely helpful when it comes to back pain.
Dr. Jimenez helps his patients with spinal ailments and conditions that range from arthritis, degenerative disc disease to nerve compression, sciatica, auto accident injuries, sports injuries, etc. In addition to chiropractic, physical therapy, diet, and exercise, he has also seen the power of home remedies, like a hot bath.
There are scientific studies that have shown how hydrotherapy can relieve back pain. Dr. Jimenez describes a hot bath as a muscle-relaxing stimulus. It opens up the muscles, which allows more blood to flow through, which in turn helps to heal injury/s, tightness, and soreness. It helps to clean out lactic acid, which is known to cause muscle pain, fatigue, and muscle cramps.
Here is what usually happens to the spine when soreness, tightness, aching, and pain present. A spinal structure like a nerve, disc, vertebral bone, or other tissue is injured or on the verge of injury, and the muscles around it contract closely in to prevent more damage.
This is called muscle spasm. Don’t worry the body is supposed to respond this way, as it means the damaged tissue is less likely to sustain further injury. However, muscle spasms can be painful. Much like a Charley horse, a back spasm can have the same effect.
For example, someone standing or working for an extended period places the muscle/s under constant tension, which means they have a higher chance of having a spasm and developing painful symptoms. A hot bath relaxes the muscle/s and reduces/removes the aching soreness and pain. Here are some tips to help relax the back muscles.
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Try Epsom Salt
Taking a bath with Epsom salt or minerals that dissolve in water can be helpful, but are not necessary. Many are fantastic skin relaxants, but if you have a hot bath with or without the salt, it’s not going to make a huge difference. What makes the bath work is the heat and the floatation. This what creates the benefits.
Soak 15-20 Minutes
It is really up to the individual, as to how long they want to stay in the tub. One question to ask is how long can you take sitting in hot water?
Hot tubs are normally heated to about 102 to 103 degrees. With these types of tubs, individuals can sit for a half-hour or more. However, most of us do not have a jacuzzi, so remember that a regular bath will be warmer possibly 105 or 106 degrees. It all depends on how long you can take the heat.
Remember not to scald yourself with a bath that is way too hot to soak in, please. It’s ok to get the water running hot, but as it fills turn the heat down and let it cool slightly before stepping in. Most individuals don’t need more than 15 to 20 minutes of soaking time maximum.
As for how often one should take a hot bath, Dr. Jimenez explains that it depends on the severity of the back pain and what type of work and activities the individual does. For most three times a week offers a balanced therapy. If an individual has a strenuous physical job like construction work, manual lifting, standing work, or doing highly repetitive work then they’ll need to do more than 3 times a week.
Strengthen the Body’s Core
A strong core can support and protect the spine, along with the rest of the body. Squeezing and contracting the back, side, and front muscles make the core strong and robust. It behaves like a steel beam supporting the spine when added protection is needed.
After a hot bath is a perfect time to stretch. Toe touches can loosen tight hamstrings that can strain the lower back. Also, try out yoga’s upward-facing dog pose. Sun salutations can help the spine go through a wide range of motion. Therefore do them slowly and hold each pose for a few breaths. A long salutation or two can feel tremendous when the spine is nice and relaxed.
Take Care When Getting Out
Hot baths might not be a good idea or the right option for certain people. If there is instability in your spine and the vertebra move around more than they are supposed to then a hot bath might not be the best option. Instead, a hot shower with a massage setting could be equivalent to taking a hot bath.
However, if a hot bath is not helping with back pain it could be a sign of something more than muscle tightness or a muscle spasm. A spine specialist or chiropractor can give you a proper diagnosis.
What Chiropractors Do & Why They Do It
The information herein on "Utilizing Hot Baths to Relax Back Tension, Soreness, and Pain" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN* CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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