The benefits of heat therapy are twofold: it increases the flow of healing oxygen and nutrients to the damaged area, and it suppresses pain signals. Some find that wearing a heat wrap, such as those from ThermaCare, is best because it releases a low level heat for several hours and can be worn under clothes so you can remain mobile. You can also combine the benefits of aromatherapy and a heat by adding an essential oil to the hot pack; you can experiment by making your own microwaveable heating pad at home and adding different essential oils to see what works best for you.
The good news regarding back pain is this: Most cases of lower back pain are believed to be due to “mechanical” problems of the musculoskeletal system rather than serious illness or chronic health problems. Abnormalities, weakness, and added stress placed on the bones, joints, ligaments and muscles can all contribute to back problems. It’s been found that the most common causes of low back pain (there are many!) include: (8)
Gels are less messy than creams because they tend to be less greasy. Water-based gels are also hydrating for the skin. Creams may be more difficult to get off your hands when you’re done applying but are good for massaging affected areas. However, some people feel that creams provide additional hydration and that the increased time it takes to rub most creams in actually allows it to penetrate deeper into the sore muscles and tissues. It really comes down to personal preference.
Traditional wisdom says that NSAID pain relievers only damage your gut lining if you take them every day for a long time, but recent research disagrees. High-level athletes with stress-related intestinal damage tried taking ibuprofen to improve muscle soreness and recovery. Ibuprofen ended up damaging their gut lining even further after just a couple weeks; it increased inflammation and made their original pain issues worse. In fact, a single dose of aspirin can significantly increase your intestinal permeability.