When we have to deal with a pulled muscle, arthritis, or inflammation, we use heating pads or ice packs. You can treat numerous conditions and injuries by applying hot or cold to the affected area. This technique is effective and affordable. However, deciding whether you choose hot or cold for the situation can be tricky. Even in some conditions, you need to choose both. You can use heat for stiffness or muscle pain. On the other hand, use ice pads for pain and acute injuries. Ice is also beneficial for swelling and inflammation.
Benefits of Hot/Cold
Most of these conditions are easy to treat through medication that your healthcare provider prescribes. Furthermore, you can also seek help from OTC/over-the-counter pain relievers. But you will need to get enough sleep, as the common side effect of pain relievers is drowsiness. If you need further relief from other painful conditions, you can choose between hot and cold pads. You can contact the health care provider who specializes in pain relief for better treatment.
1. Acute Injuries
The first thing that you need to consider is to avoid treating acute injuries with heat. Additional heat on acute injuries will increase inflammation, and your healing process will slow down. When you are dealing with injuries, you mostly choose ice, especially when it is acute. Another thing that you need to consider is how long you are suffering from the injury. If the injury is not six weeks old, you can use ice. When your blood vessels chill due to ice, it limits the bruising, relieves inflammation, and numbs the pain.
If you have high sensitivity to cold, you will feel uncomfortable at the start, but you will feel better when the area starts to numb. You will feel cozy, warm, and tempting to use heat in the affected area. However, you need to be aware that ice is perfect for early inflammation, swelling, and pain. On the other hand, the heat will make your injury worse.
When you suffer from injuries older than six weeks, you can use heat to get relief from the pain. Therefore your tight muscles will relax as the heat increases your blood flow. You can also use this technique to relieve pain from the joints. So if your range of motion is not moving well, you can benefit and improve it.
You can also use heat before exercising at home and stretching out. Hot and cold treatment will also work with these kinds of activities and prevent inflammation. You need to follow the warming up and cooling down pattern.
Hot and cold treatment is also beneficial after activities and exercise. This can also prevent inflammation and relief. In this treatment, you need to warm up and cool down.
Inflammation in joints or pain due to worn-out cartilage can lead to stiffness and pain in different body parts. These body parts include fingers, shoulders, knees, and elbows. When this happens, you need to soak the towel in the shower or the tub. Ensure that the water is not too hot but warm. The temperature of 92 to 100 degrees will help you out. Patients who are suffering from chronic osteoarthritis will feel good when they undergo heat therapy.
3. Gout flare-ups
According to various doctors, ice is also beneficial for the patient experiencing gout flare-ups for pain relief. When they suddenly develop inflammation and pain on the individual joints, they can calm it down with the help of ice. Furthermore, it also helps with numbing the pain.
Headaches are pretty common at some levels. There are different variations of headaches depending on the reason. You can quickly get relief from your headache by using an OTC pain reliever. However, some people also need other treatments to reduce the pain. When you have throbbing pain, you can use ice to get better. Using cold wraps and masks on your eyes, forehead, and temples, you can reduce the pain of migraines. Apart from using ice for your headaches, you can also use heat wrap and moist heat to relax the spasms and relieve headaches.
5. Muscle Sprains and Strains
When you have muscle sprains and strains, you can use both the ice and the heat techniques to improve. In these conditions, either you have a sprained ankle or pulled a muscle in your calf. You can start with ice to reduce the inflammation, tenderness, redness, and swelling from the injury. Furthermore, it also helps to numb the pain. After resolving inflammation, you can switch to heat therapy. You can seek relief from all types of muscle stiffness by using heat on the injury site.
Tendinitis occurs when you have painful inflammation in your tendons. Tendons are the connecting tissues between your bones and muscles. The common sites for tendons are the knee, elbow, hip, and shoulder. This condition occurs due to repetitive activities. Besides using the standard technique for pain relief, such as OTC pain reliever, you can use ice. Ice will help numb the pain and ease the inflammation.
Tendinosis is a condition similar to tendinitis. Tendinosis involves pain in the tendon and has a distinct cause. Your tendon might degenerate because of long-term, chronic conditions. As you will feel stiffness and irritation of the tendons attached to your joints, you can use heat to treat stiffness in the joints. However, you need to ensure that you utilize this treatment after reducing inflammation.
How to use it?
• Heat Therapy
Heat therapy is the most effective technique to keep on your body part for longer than cold therapy. You cannot expose your skin to the ice for a very long time. Heat therapy will relieve you of minor tension or stiffness. Simply use this technique for 15 to 20 minutes. If you have moderate to severe pain, you can have longer heat therapy sessions, such as taking a warm bath. The bath can last between 30 minutes and two hours.
• Cold Therapy
There are two forms of cold therapy. One, you can take an ice bath. Two, you can apply an ice pack in a towel to the affected area. Never apply frozen items directly to your skin as they can cause tissue and skin damage. You can also use cold treatment soon after the injury. You can undergo cold therapy for several days. The interval of cold therapy can be 15 to 20 minutes. Ensure that your therapy does not exceed more than 20 minutes. Cold therapy for a long time can damage your skin, tissue, and nerves. Lifting up the area while undergoing the treatment process will enhance the results.
How does it work?
• Heat Therapy
Heat therapy will improve your blood flow and blood circulation to a specific region. This happens because of increasing temperature. Even when you slightly touch the affected area, you will feel the increase in your muscle’s flexibility and soothing at the discomforting area. Heat therapy will soothe and relax your muscles and heal you from tissue damage.
• Cold Therapy
You can also refer to cold therapy as cryotherapy. This will help by reducing the blood flow in the affected area. When this happens, you will notice a reduction in swelling and inflammation that was causing you pain. You can use this technique, especially around a tendon or a joint. With cold therapy, you will reduce your nerve activity temporarily. Therefore, you won’t feel pain.
You can increase the effectiveness of these techniques by knowing when to use each one. In various situations, you need to undergo both treatments. Arthritis patients use heat therapy for the stiffness in their joints. Moreover, they use cold therapy for acute pain and swelling.
If any of this treatment makes your discomfort and/or pain worse, you should stop the treatment immediately. If you are not receiving any help from the treatment after using it for few days, then you should consult your doctor. Ask for other treatment options and discuss their effectiveness. You can also contact your doctor if you have skin changes or bruising with hot and cold treatment.
Disclaimer: The Content is not meant to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek your physician’s advice or other qualified health providers with any questions regarding a medical condition.