What is Hot and Cold Therapy?
Heat and cold therapy is a recommended treatment for pain occurring due to muscle and joint damage. Using a hot water bottle or heated pads is common in hot therapy. On the other hand, cold therapy involves cold water bottles, pads cooled in the refrigerator, or cold water. Alternation of hot and cold therapy enhances blood flow to the site of pain or injury.
While cold treatment reduces the blood flow and inflammation, heat therapy enhances the blood flow and allows the muscles to relax. Applying hot or cold therapy alternatively helps in reducing pain related to exercises. The heat applied must be tolerable, and avoid applying ice on the skin directly. Alternating patterns of heat and ice therapy is also called contrasting therapy. Heat therapy is effective for treating chronic pain and cold therapy can be used to treat inflamed or swollen muscles and joints. Cold therapy is effective when applied within 48 hours of the injury.
Applying heat to an inflamed part dilates the blood vessels, promotes blood flow, and relaxes the tight and sore muscles. With increased blood circulation, the body eliminates the lactic acid buildup occurring after some exercises. Heat therapy is more effective for treating chronic pain conditions. The types of heat therapy are:
The heat packs may be moist or dry. While dry heat application is permissible for up to eight hours, moist heat acts faster and can be applied for two hours. The application of heat should be for twenty minutes in each session. However, the patches or dry wraps can also be used for about eight hours.
Cold therapy reduces the flow of blood over to the affected area. Therefore, the inflammation slows down and reduces the risk of tissue damage and swelling. Besides, applying ice or chilled water numbs the damaged or sore tissues and retards the pain message transmission to the brain. Ice helps in treating inflamed or swollen muscles and joints and used is for treating sports injuries. The types of cold therapy are:
When applying heat therapy, you must utilize a warm temperature. With temperatures too hot, the skin over the affected area may burn. Moreover, using heat therapy on an infection allows it to spread faster. Heat pack application should typically last for twenty minutes in each session. When heat therapy does not reduce pain or discomfort, it needs to stop immediately.
The application of cold therapy for too long can damage the skin, tissues, or nerves. When a cold compress does not reduce pain or discomfort within 48 hours, it is necessary to consult with the doctor.
When applying hot and cold therapy, it is essential to use hot and cold alternatively. It is used for recovering from pain occurring due to injury. The following are the benefits to note.
There are various situations when heat and ice therapy is effective. The application of cold compress works for bruised or swollen areas and reduces inflammation around the tendons and joints. Therefore, cold therapy works best for impact injuries, such as blows and knocks. Heat therapy is suitable for chronic pain conditions on the lower back or shoulders.
The things to remember when applying hot and cold therapy:
Before starting the therapy, it is essential to follow these steps.
While heat therapy increases blood circulation and allows the muscles to relax, cold therapy reduces blood flow and inflammation.
Heat therapy works for aching muscles due to exertion, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain. It is also useful for treating spasm pain during periods. Ice therapy also reduces bleeding in the tissues and retracts the effects of swelling due to injury.