Heat Wrap May Help Back Pain
Workers in Study Reported Less Low Back Pain After Using Heat Wraps
WebMD News Archive
Jan. 23, 2006 -- About half of all working-age Americans experience low back
pain in any given year, costing the U.S. economy between $20 and $50 billion
annually in lost productivity.
But an over-the-counter approach to controlling back pain just may help get
some of these people back to work quicker, researchers from the Johns Hopkins
University School of Medicine are reporting.
In their study, hospital employees seeking treatment for work-related low
back pain reported significantly less pain when continuous low-level heat wraps
were used along with standard treatment.
The study was paid for by Procter & Gamble, manufacturer of the
"The people who used the heat wraps had more mobility with less
pain," researcher Edward J. Bernacki, MD, tells WebMD. Bernacki directs the
division of occupational medicine at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins School of
Measuring Pain Intensity
The small study included 43 patients treated at the occupational injury
clinic for acute low back pain. People with a history of chronic back pain or
back problems, other chronic body pains, or back surgery were not included in
Eighteen of the patients received education regarding back therapy and pain
management alone. The other 25 received the same intervention along with the
heat wraps, worn on the lower back for eight hours during the day for three
People in both groups took pain relief medications as needed.
Both groups were assessed for pain intensity and pain relief four times each
day during the three treatment days. Pain was also measured during follow-up
visits about one and two weeks later.
The researchers reported that the heat-wrap-treated patients "had
significantly reduced pain intensity, increased pain relief, and improved
disability scores during and after treatment."
The study appeared in the December 2005 issue of The Journal of
Occupational and Environmental Medicine.