The two most popular nonprescription medications in the U.S.
- ibuprofen (i.e., Advil) and acetaminophen (i.e., Tylenol)
- have been promoted as "first-line" management of acute low
back pain. These analgesics may cause potential kidney, stomach,
and liver problems, however. Self-administered topical heat
wraps may offer a drug-free alternative treatment for acute
a recent study in the journal Spine, the authors compared
eight hours/day of low-level topical heat therapy with maximal
recommended dosages of ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Pain,
muscle stiffness, disability, and back flexibility were compared
in almost 400 people with back pain, ages 18-55, over two
days of therapy and two days of follow-up.
Heat-wrap therapy was more effective than either drug. Heat
wraps were significantly more effective than ibuprofen and
acetaminophen in terms of self-reported pain relief. In the
heat-wrap group, back flexibility was greater, and disability
and muscle stiffness were lessened to a greater degree.
Based on these findings, continuous low-level heat-wrap therapy
may be better than painkillers for acute back pain. Your doctor
of chiropractic can tell you more about this noninvasive,
drug-free pain treatment, which involves simply wrapping a
Velcro belt with a heating element around your torso.
Nadler SF, Steiner DJ, Erasala GN, et al. Continuous low-level
heat wrap therapy provides more efficacy than ibuprofen and
acetaminophen for acute low back pain. Spine 2002:27(10),
For more information on back pain, go to http://www.chiroweb.com/tyh/backpain.html