For centuries, healers have been successfully treating injuries with heat therapy or cold therapy. Both heat and cold have the ability to substantially reduce pain and relieve discomfort when properly used.
If you have pushed your body too hard during a workout or sports event, you might wonder if you should use heat or cold therapy to reduce the pain. However, you might be confused when and how to use each therapy method. Here are a few tips to help you understand when to use heat therapy and when to use cold therapy.
If your body has sustained recent tissue damage, cold therapy works well to treat the pain and resulting inflammation. Any time blood vessels in the body suffer damage, the body’s immediate reaction is pain and swelling. Immediately applying cold to the inflamed area causes the blood vessels in the region to shrink and relieves pain and reduces swelling.
These are a few common injuries that can effectively be treated using cold therapy.
- A basic ankle sprain
- Muscle or joint sprain
- Acute pain brought on from intense exercise
- Inflammatory arthritis
- Inflamed joint
- Recent swelling of tissue
When using cold therapy, never apply the cold compress to the inflamed area for more than 20 minutes at a time. Always apply the cold therapy immediately after the injury occurs.
Heat therapy is most effective when used for chronic pain. Heat makes the muscles in the body relax and the body’s blood vessels expand. Spasming muscles start to experience almost instant relief when heat is applied and they start to relax. Avoid using heat on areas of the body that are inflamed because applying heat to an inflammation can make the condition worse.
These are common conditions where heat therapy is the most effective treatment.
- Muscle pain or chronic soreness
- Arthritis pain without inflammation
- Stiff joints
- Pain preventative. Apply heat to muscles prior to working out to help relax the area so it does not start to spasm during exercise.
Use a low-level heat wrap on the painful area for up to 8 hours at a time to bring relief. A hot bath or shower is also an effective heat treatment plan for chronic body pain.
If you are seeking information on heat or cold therapy or you would like to explore other treatment options please contact us.