A randomized clinical trial of continuous low-level heat therapy for acute muscular low back pain in the workplace

J Occup Environ Med. 2005 Dec;47(12):1298-306. doi: 10.1097/01.jom.0000184877.01691.a3.


Objectives: We sought to compare the therapeutic benefits of ThermaCare Heat Wrap combined with an education program to an education-only program on reducing pain and disability from acute work-related low back pain.

Methods: Forty-three eligible patients, aged 20 to 62 years who presented to an occupational injury clinic, were randomized into one of two intervention arms: 1) education regarding back therapy and pain management alone or 2) education regarding back therapy and pain management combined with three consecutive days of topical heat therapy (104 degrees F or 40 degrees C for 8 hours). The primary endpoints in this trial were measures of pain intensity and pain relief levels obtained approximately four times per day for the three consecutive working days of treatment, followed by measures of pain intensity and pain relief levels obtained in three follow-up visits at day 4 and 14 from treatment initiation. The secondary measures were overall impairment due to injury and disability caused by low back pain assessed at Intake, Visit 2 (day 4), 3 (day 7), and 4 (day 14).

Results and conclusion: A total of 18 individuals enrolled in the education-only group and 25 in the treatment group completed the intervention and all follow-up visits. The general linear model adjusting for age, sex, baseline pain intensity, and pain medication indicated that the topical heat therapy had significantly reduced pain intensity, increased pain relief, and improved disability scores during and after treatment.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Back Pain / therapy*
  • Female
  • Hot Temperature / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / therapy*
  • Occupational Diseases / therapy*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Workplace*