hot or cold pain relief

Heat or Cold Pain Therapy?

We see plenty of hurting, so we’re pretty familiar with pain. We know that when you’re in pain – whether from a fresh injury or a long-term issue – you want relief, and you want it quickly. Both cold therapy and hot therapy are useful, but they play different roles in treatment. Read on to find out when and how to use each type of therapy.

Cold Therapy

When to Use It

Cold therapy is good for new injuries. “New” can refer to anything that’s six weeks old or less, but it’s especially effective in the first 48 hours after an injury.

Cold packs should be used for acute injuries like pulled muscles, bursitis, sprains and tendinitis. They can also help relieve a headache, particularly the throbbing type.

How It Works

Cold packs constrict blood vessels, reducing blood flow and chemical reactions in the area. Thus, the swelling and inflammation that happen after an injury are able to go down.

Applying a cold pack will also numb the area. When you’re in pain, numbness provides much-appreciated relief.

Hot Therapy

When to Use It

Chronic injuries, including general arthritis discomfort and chronic back pain, benefit from hot therapy. Heat can also be used to treat pain that lingers after sprains and other injuries; just don’t use it until the inflammation stage is over. Finally, put heat on for a headache that is triggered by muscle spasms.

How It Works

Heat relaxes joints and muscles. This provides relief for both stiffness and spasms.

Treating pain also helps bring blood flow to the affected area. In fact, this is why you should not use hot therapy on fresh injuries as it can cause extra inflammation, which is detrimental to recovery.

Heat and cold pain therapy are recommended to help relieve aching pain that results from muscle or joint damage.

Heat therapy, or thermo therapy can involve the use of a heated material, pads that can be heated in a microwave, or a warm bath.

Cold therapy, or cryotherapy, an item from the freezer, a pad cooling pad, or ice water can be used.

In some cases, alternating heat and cold may help, as it will greatly increase blood flow to the injury site.