If you are suffering from chronic pain, whether it’s your back, neck, shoulders, knees or something else, it may be time for you to consider heat and cold therapy. They both provide a great way to relieve you pain, by using non-addictive and non-invasive methods. Keep reading to discover when to use heat or ice.
The one you choose to use depends on whether the pain is recurring or new. Generally, a new injury will cause inflammation and swelling. Cold therapies decrease blood flow to the injury which will decrease the swelling and inflammation. Heat therapy can be used to treat pain that recurs since it brings blood flow to the area leading to faster pain relief and healing. Ice, ice packs and other cold therapy devices can help to reduce knee pain and muscle spasms. It is suggested that using ice to treat acute injuries or pain that occur after an activity will numb pain, decrease swelling and block the nerve impulses to the joint.
Heating pads or warm baths and other heat-based treatments tend to be used before activity. Applying heat before you perform physical activities should improve blood flow, relax muscles and get the joints ready for action.
General Guidelines for Heat/Cold Therapy
- Use ice/cold therapy for newer injuries where the damaged tissues are swollen, and/or inflamed. Ice helps to:
- Reduce muscle pain and spasms.
- Prevent or reduce swelling.
- Reduce bleeding into the tissue.
- Reduce pain by numbing and limiting the effects of swelling.
- Do not apply cold therapy for longer than 20 minutes. Also, wrap ice or ice pack in a thin towel before you apply. Ice can make muscle tension and spasms worse if applied directly to the skin.
- Heat should be used for tense muscles, chronic pain and stress. Heat causes the blood vessels to dilate. This brings blood to the area to stimulate the healing of the damaged tissue. It is also used to ease stiffness. Heat can make inflammations worse, so avoid using heat on fresh injuries.
- Do not use heat for longer than 20 minutes, over swelling, over open wounds or stitches and also do not lie down on a heating pad as you can fall asleep and burn your skin.
- Do not use heat or cold therapy:
- Over areas of the skin that are in poor condition.
- Over areas of the skin that have poor sensation to heat or cold.
- Over areas of the body that have poor circulation.
- If you have diabetes.
- Over an infected area.
We hope that this article helps you with your pain management. Having said that, we know that it’s not always easy to determine when to use heat or cold therapy and whether to use either one at all. Sometimes you just need to try one out to determine whether it helps to relieve the pain. We also highly recommend that you consult your doctor prior to performing any type of treatment.
Now that you understand the benefits of each, have a look at our SHOP to see what we have available to help you with your pain management.