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What Causes The Back To Feel Hot and How is the Feeling of Hot Back Managed?

Sometimes, the back feels hot when compared to the rest of the body. It can be quite unusual for an individual to have a hot back especially when this change is noted out of the blue without any specific reason for it. Feeling hot on the back is not a cause for any worry if it happens occasionally. It may be just the way the body is functioning.  However, if this feeling occurs along with certain other symptoms or the back is constantly hot then it may signify an underlying problem which may require further investigation.  It may be the nerves of the spine or just the skin surface that may not be working normally causing the back to feel hot.  These conditions are fairly benign and can be treated easily[1].

In some cases, the back feels very hot on palpation than the rest of the body.  This may happen due to some skin issues.  It may be accompanied by an area of skin discoloration around the spine.  The skin may be peeling.  The individual may also be having severe pain around the affected region.  Feeling hot on the back may also be accompanied by fever and muscle pains[1].

In some cases where nerve dysfunction is believed to be the cause of feeling hot on the back, the affected individual may experience numbness and tingling going down the lower extremities, severe pain in the back.  This article details as to what causes the back to feel and hot and different ways to manage the condition[1].

What Causes The Back To Feel Hot?

Some of the potential causes for an individual to feel hot on the back include

Nerve Dysfunction: Nerve pain is one of the most common causes as to why the back feels hot.  Along with the warmth the affected individual will also experience tingling and pain in the back.  Additionally, nerve pain will also cause the individual to feel electric shock sensations going down the spine every now and then. People who have a compressed nerve root in the back feel hot at the area because the nerve is not able to send signals.  The brain perceives the distorted signal as heat and causes the back to become hot[1].

Diabetic Neuropathy: This is yet another nerve dysfunction seen in diabetics which can cause the back to feel hot. In this case, there is damage to the nerves as a result of uncontrolled blood sugars. This in turn results in the affected individual to feel numbness and tingling along with the back feeling hot. Another nerve dysfunction that may cause the back to feel hot is radiculopathy. This condition is caused as a result of the spinal nerve getting compressed or inflamed.  It may also cause unrelenting pain in the back which tends to get worse with time[1].

Sciatica: This is the most common radiculopathy in which there is compression of the sciatic nerve. This is the condition that causes the back to feel hot along with pain that travels from the hip to the lower extremities[1].

Sunburns: This is yet another reason why an individual may feel hot on the back.  During summers, the exposed area of the body gets burnt due to the rays of the sun.  This is quite common in people who go out for a swim at the beach in the summers.  When the back gets sunburnt it feels hot to touch.  There is also pain along with burning and tingling sensation in the back[1].

Additionally, the skin may start to peel due to it being burnt by the sun rays.  The risk of a sunburn increases as a result of certain medications. These medications include sulfonamides, salicylic acids, retinoids, and certain classes of diuretics. A severe case of sunburn can result in an increased risk for skin cancer[1].

Thus it is recommended for people with sensitive skin to put on appropriate sunscreens when out in the sun especially during the summer season to prevent any unusual sunburn[1].

Skin Infections: There are certain skin infections that can result in a hot back.  This is because the infection causes the skin surface to become inflamed. It is this inflammation that causes the skin to feel hot on palpation.  Along with the warmth in the affected region, a skin infection can also cause pain and swelling at the affected area with erythema[1].

One such infection of the skin that may result in a hot back is cellulitis.  This infection occurs deep within the skin.  It mostly occurs when bacteria infiltrates an open wound.  This wound may be a large one as a result of a fall or an accident or a very small one such as a cut or a scrape[1].

If left untreated, cellulitis can result in a variety of complications including sepsis which is a life threatening condition. An individual with cellulitis will require treatment with antibiotics to treat the infection and eliminate the bacteria.  In severe cases, an inpatient stay may be required[1].

Heartburn: This is an unusual cause of the back feeling hot.  Heartburn occurs when an individual has very spicy or acidic food.  It causes the stomach acid to be regurgitated back into the esophagus.  Heartburn is also experienced commonly in people with gastroesophageal reflux disease.  An individual with heartburn will have pain in the center of the chest or throat.  However, feeling hot in the upper back is yet another feature of heartburn[1].

Kidney Stones: Excessive amounts of calcium in the urine tend to cause kidney stones. Frequent urinary tract infections are yet another common cause of kidney stones. An individual with this condition will have severe abdominal pain along with debilitating pain in the low back.  The pain in the low back is in most cases described as severe ache but some people feel that their back feels hot. The back may also feel hot when the individual passes kidney stones through urine[1].

How is the Feeling of Hot Back Managed?

Coming to different ways to manage the excessive warmth in the back, a consultation with a physician becomes mandatory if the sensation affects the daily life of the individual.  It is the cause of the hot back that will decide the course of treatment for the patient.  If there are other symptoms experienced like fever or malaise along with the back feeling hot, then also a physician should be consulted to identify a cause and formulate a treatment plan[1].

If serious medical conditions like kidney stones, cellulitis, or severe sunburn is believed to be the cause of the hot back then aggressive treatments may be required. For infections, the patient will be given a course of antibiotics. Intravenous fluids may be administered for cases of severe sunburn causing individual to feel hot on the back.

If heartburn is believed to be the cause then over-the-counter antacids would suffice to calm down the symptoms[1]. If the symptoms of heartburn do not resolve with over-the-counter medications then the patient should visit the emergency room for a detailed evaluation for the causes and treatment of heartburn. 

Kidney stones generally pass through urine; however, in some cases the patient may require medications to calm down the pain caused due to the stones.  In some cases where the stones do not pass on their own then a surgery or laser treatment may have to be performed to remove the stones[1].

For hot back caused due to sciatica, in majority of the cases there is no treatment required.  The patient can calm down the pain with hot and cold packs.  Physical therapy also is of great help in calming down the symptoms of sciatica.  However, in some cases where symptoms do not resolve despite all conservative efforts then a surgery will have to be performed to decompress the sciatic nerve[1].

For nerve pain caused due to diabetes, tighter control of blood sugar is emphasized.  Nerve medications may also be prescribed to help with the pain and treat the sensation of hot back.  Diligent exercise is also recommended to keep the body fit and control the blood sugars[1].

In conclusion, an individual may have a sensation of the hot back due to a variety of reasons.  An occasional feeling of a hot back is not a cause for concern but if this starts to happen too frequently and is accompanied by other symptoms as well then it indicates an underlying medical condition.  Nerve pain, cellulitis, compressed nerve, heartburn, and cellulitis are some of the common causes of the back feeling hot[1].

All of these conditions are treatable provided the patient adheres to the recommendations made by the physician diligently.  The overall prognosis of completely getting rid of feeling hot on the back significantly improves with timely diagnosis and prompt treatment[1].

However, a diagnosis cannot be made just on basis of feeling hot on the back unless there are other characteristic features defined.  Thus it is important to make a note of the symptoms aside from feeling hot on the back for an accurate diagnosis and best treatment for the condition[1].


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 30, 2022

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