Heat and cold therapy are often recommended to help relieve an aching pain that results from muscle or joint damage.
Typically, ice is used to reduce inflammation and swelling in acute soft tissue injuries because of its ability to constrict blood vessels.
Heat, on the other hand, is more appropriate for treating tightness and muscular spasms for pain reduction and increased mobility. Additionally, heat makes tissue pliable, making it a useful tool for stretching tendons, ligaments, and muscles.
Basic heat therapy, or thermal therapy involves the use of a hot water bottle, heating pads, or a warm bath.
For cold therapy, or cryotherapy, a water bottle filled with ice cold water or an ice pack can be used.
In some cases, alternating heat and cold may help, as this greatly increases blood flow to the injury site.
If you are suffering from a muscle sprain or joint injuries, the first healing option that comes to your mind is hot and cold therapy. However, there is often confusion as to which healing therapy is the best. Well, the answer is both these therapies are effective and the choice usually depends on the type and cause of your pain. For example, cold therapies reduce the spread of infection by decreasing the flow of blood while heat therapies reduce the swelling and alleviate the pain.
What Exactly Is Hot And Cold Therapy
Heat therapy, also known as Thermotherapy stimulates your blood circulation, which, in turn, helps in the repair of your damaged cells. When you apply heat therapy (or heat pad) on the affected area, the soft tissues are stretched, thereby relaxing your muscles and joints. Heat therapies are ideal healing option for:
- Muscle strains and sprains
- Neck pain and back pain
Cold therapy uses the application of ice packs to decrease the spread of infection and also eases the pain. If you have swelling after an injury or an extensive workout, the immediate application of an ice pack could be an effective treatment option. The therapy numbs your nerve tissues and hence restricts the pain messages being sent to your brain. Cold therapies are ideal healing option for:
- Recent injuries
- Irritation in your tendons
- Osteoarthritis or Gout
Alternating Ice And Heat Therapy
When you use both hot cold therapy in an alternate sequence, it is called alternating ice and heat therapy or contrast therapy. This could be a slightly tricky option but studies have proven that this therapy is highly effective in treating exercise-induced injuries. Hot and cold water therapy is a recommended treatment option for high-level athletes who are involved in heavy practice sessions or workouts.
Hot and cold therapy in alternate combinations is the oldest and most effective soothing option known to mankind. These therapies in conjunction create a pumping mechanism that regulates the flow of fresh blood containing healing nutrients into the affected areas.
Heat Pack For Back Pain
If you are enduring the unbearable torment of back pain and are looking for a quick remedy, then a heat pack could be the best answer. You will find a number of heat pads in the market that are convenient and portable. Electric heating pads are also available but are slightly expensive. Regardless of which type of heating pad you use, there are certain safety tips you need to follow:
- Always wrap the heating pad with a towel and then apply it on your skin. Direct application of a heating pad may cause burns
- Never fall while using your heating pad
- Always start with the lowest temperature and then gradually increase the intensity of the heat
- Never use an electric heating pad with a broken cord or an open wire
- Do not apply a heating pad on open wounds and damaged skin
When you are suffering from chronic pain then it is difficult to perform even normal day-to-day activities like opening the door, walking, lifting heavy objects and exercising. Alternatively, if a heating pad is unavailable, then consider having a hot shower or bath.
Heat Therapy Helps With
- Chronic osteoarthritis
- strains and sprains
- warming up stiff muscles before activity
- relieving pain or spasms relating to neck or back injury, including the lower back
Cold Therapy Helps With
- a recent injury
- tendinitis or irritation in the tendons following activity
If you wish to know more about hot and cold therapy in Richmond, welcome to RVA Physical Therapy