How to Treat Pain with Hot and Cold Therapy?

Hot and Cold Therapy2

Both cold and heat can help alleviate pain,but it is confusing which is suited to what kind of pain. There are some basic rules for using hot and cold therapy products:

  • For acute pain and new inflamed/ swollen injury, it is good to use cold therapy
  • For chronic pain and old injuries, hot therapy is useful.

In the long run, you have to find what works ideally for you. If heat is unpleasant, you can go in for cold therapy products and vice versa. But the ultimate criteria are what type of injury you are treating. Varied kinds of injury need varied types of treatment for complete healing. Cold and hot therapies are non-invasive and non-addictive treatment for pain relief but they are not substitutes for medical treatment and evaluation.

Heat Therapy:

Heat causes relaxation. Hence muscles that are overworked respond well to heat therapy. Heat provides soothing for sore muscles, relaxes spasms and stimulates flow of blood. Another name for heat therapy is thermotherapy.

Heat therapy works in the following way: A chemical named Lactic acid makes over worked muscles sore. It gets accumulated when muscles are subject to stress and suffer oxygen deprivation. When this happens, there isa slowing of blood circulation in a damaged area and the lactic acid becomes stuck. The build-up of this lactic acid contributes to muscle ache that is painful.

Heat therapy improves blood flow and gets rid of lactic acid accumulation from muscles. Heat therapy is suited to treating chronic pain. Heat enhances blood supply. It facilitates elimination of toxins. Heat therapy products relax stiffness and soreness to bring about healing.

If you are suffering current injury, apply heat prior to exercising. If you apply heat after exercising, it can aggravate pain. There are two types of heat therapy: local heat and systemic heat.

Local heat is used for application on specific areas. It is done using:

  • Heating pads
  • Hot water bottles
  • Heat wraps
  • Moist heat (damp, hot towel)

Systemic heat enhances body temperature with

  • Sauna
  • Hot bath
  • Hot shower
  • Steam bath

Cold Therapy for Pain Relief

Mostly, cold therapy or cryotherapy is suited to treating fresh injuries.The damaged tissue becomes inflamed when you suffer an injury. It causes redness, swelling and pain.

Swelling is an automatic body response to injury. However, swelling causes pain by compressing nearby tissue. But use of ice or cold therapy is not as popular as heat therapy.

Ice numbs injury. The blood vessels are narrowed by application of cold which slows down flow of blood. This aids in reducing fluid build-up in affected areas. Ice helps in lowering swelling and inflammation. It alleviates pain but does not impact the underlying cause.

Cold therapy is ideal for acute pain created by recent damage of tissues. Ice is suitable when injury is red, sensitive, inflamed or new. It is good for reliving any pain or inflammation which happens after exercise. But unlike the case of heat therapy, cold therapy must be undergone only after exercise. Cryotherapy reduces inflammation after exercise. It also aids in reducing pain associated with chronic injuries.

Cold therapy can be applied using:

  • Ice pack
  • Ice towel
  • Ice massage
  • Cold gel pack
  • Pack of frozen vegetables.

This is, in sum, the nature of hot and cold therapies.

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