Learn about the benefits of Heat and Cold Therapy!

Learn about the benefits of Heat and Cold Therapy!

People often rely on hot and cold therapy, which can be a reasonably priced, convenient technique for injury treatment. This therapy is often used as pain relief for injuries associated with damage and overuse of muscle groups and joints.

Heat therapy uses hot water bottles, heat pads, or warm baths. Cold therapy features ice packs, cool water, or cold compresses. However, it is hard to determine which types of aches and ailments can benefit from hot treatment, and which ones are benefited from cold treatment. In some instances, using both can be effective. Altering heat and cold could improve blood flow to the site of pain.

Cold Therapy

Cold therapy, also known as cryotherapy, reduces inflammation and swelling by lessening blood flow. It aids in slowing the rate of collagen repair to injured tissue or excision of waste from a joint. Cold therapy can numb sore muscles to minimize discomfort without relying on an anesthetic. It can actually slow the transmission of pain signals to the brain. Cold compresses are a common at-home remedy for everyday injuries called RICE – Rest, ice, compression, elevation. This therapy is used to treat conditions such as arthritis, simple injuries, gout, muscle strains, and tendinitis, as well as minimize the degree of pain caused by migraines or headaches.

Types of Cold Therapy

Cold therapy can be utilized in a variety of ways to handle pain throughout the body. Several methods may be used to relieve discomfort at home, including:

  • An ice pack or cold pack applied for 20 minutes every four to six hours to the affected area can help reduce swelling and inflammation.
  • A cold bath may help relieve pain by slowing blood flow.
  • Coolant sprays

Heat Therapy

Heat decreases inflammation and enhances circulation to a certain region of the body. This occurs because heat can cause the blood vessels of an area to enlarge, improving circulation to the injured site. Applying heat to the affected area can provide comfort and help increase muscular flexibility, as well as provide relief for damaged tissues.

Improving circulation to a specific area is important to relieving pain and relieving lactic acid waste that develops after certain kinds of exercise. Heat therapy is effective in treating chronic muscle pain or sore joints caused by arthritis, strains, and sprains, alleviating pain or muscle spasms resulting from neck or back injury, or tendonitis.

Types of Heat Therapy

Dry heat and moist heat are the two varieties of heat therapy. Regardless of the type of heat you select, the heat should be warm rather than hot.

  • Dry heat: This technique includes the application of warm compresses, heated packs, or hot water bottles. Dry heat is easy and convenient to apply at home. 
  • Moist heat: This version of thermal therapy includes using steamed towels, and warm baths (between the temperature of 92 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit).

Moist heat typically requires less time and provides a more effective remedy than dry heat. Professional heat therapies can also be used. This can include heat from an ultrasound, and may benefit the affected person in the case of tendonitis.  Minor pain and stiffness are often alleviated after 15-20 minutes of applied heat therapy. Heat therapy should never be used for more than 20 minutes at a time, no more than three times a day, nor is instructed by a medical professional. Moderate-to-severe pain may be relieved by longer heat sessions, such as a soak in a warm bath that lasts from 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Alternating Heat and Cold Therapy

It can sometimes be most effective to use alternating heat and cold therapy when injuries or pain are due to physical activity, such as from sports injuries or osteoarthritis. The cold therapy causes the blood vessels to constrict, slowing down blood flow and, therefore, relieving pain. With the removal of cold, the blood vessels dilate to increase circulation and bring much-needed nutrients to heal the injured tissues. Heat therapy can be used to stimulate the increased blood flow and nutrients to the affected area.

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