Hot and Cold Therapy – Choosing the Right One

As the most common treatment when it comes to physical injuries, applying an adequate Hot and Cold Therapy will help, more or less effectively, to reduce the pain of shock, inflammation and swelling of the injured area. The essential difference, and a guideline to know which kind of a treatment should be applied, depends on whether the type of pain is fresh, which means the injury is recent, or if it is chronic and a frequent type of pain, which means that it is recurring.

Of course, knowing the difference is what makes the therapy successful, so in the following text we will provide a, more or less, detailed information on how to treat which kind of the patient’s injury. If you are not sure of the cause of injury, it is always advised to seek for professional help.

Cold Therapy

It’s not so hard to distinguish injuries that require cold therapy. As a result of the shock and acute and sudden injuries, muscle tears, sprained ankle, bruises, redness, inflammation and similar outcomes should be treated with a cold treatment the sooner the better. It helps reducing the symptoms, possible swelling of the area and noticeable contusions. When a part of the body suffers an injury, blood vessels under the skin break under the pressure, and bruising and swelling is a natural response. Soft tissue requires some help to revitalize, and a cold therapy helps by reducing the blood flow when applied to the injured area. At the same time, it helps to numb the upset nerve endings and by doing so the experience of pain is decreased. Nerves simply send their messages of distress to brain much slower, and that’s what causes the feeling of relief.

Depending on which part of the body suffered an injury, and how much damage the tissue suffered in the process, this is how you should apply cold treatment.

An ice pack, as the most common and conventional example, should be applied as soon as possible. This will help with cooling the tissue down, and will also cause vasoconstriction of other blood vessels around the area. Remember that even inflammation is a process of healing itself, and you should never apply ice directly to the skin, wrap it in a cloth, even choosing to apply frozen veggies is better than direct contact with ice. Depending on the size of the bruised or inflamed area, ice should remain in this spot for 15 to 20 minutes. This treatment should be repeated in at least every 4 hours or less. At first, applying the ice pack may cause additional pain, but this is also natural, it is just an ordinary response of the nerves before the treated area goes numb. For back and neck pain, an ice massage is advised.

It is important to know that you can certainly damage your tissue and even reduce your muscle repair process if you are applying this treatment for more than 48 hours. After all, you are delaying the healing with this type of therapy, in the benefit of the pain relief.

Hot Therapy

With chronic and recurring pain, heat therapy is advised. A simple procedure that will help you to establish if the heat treatment should be considered: simply lay your hand over the injury. If the area feels inflamed, hot therapy will not help, on the contrary, it will cause additional pain. For the relaxation of tender muscles, and of the stiff joints, ligament and joint pain, you will probably need physio equipment. Your therapist will provide you with detailed instructions how to use them, but these are some ground rules and explanations.

Heat helps blood vessels to open up and circulation and blood flow increases because of this. Providing oxygen and nutrients, this method will help you to reduce pain, but your range of motion will start to improve as well if the therapy is applied correctly. For yourself, and as a home remedy, you can apply warm gel packs, hot water bottles or simply enjoy and relax in a warm bath. Of course, dry treatment will affect your skin and moist will definitely show better results. As for the cold therapy, the same rule goes for a hot one, never apply directly to skin, instead you should use a cloth or a towel for home remedies. Again, the treatment shouldn’t last longer than 20 minutes, and if there is any swelling you will have to apply cold treatment first, and after that the hot therapy. Never use this treatment on open types of wounds, and depending on the area of the injury and your health, there is some additional advice that you should be aware of.

Never use hot therapy on your lower back, especially if the area is bruised, without consulting your therapist first. Also, if you have diabetes, dermatitis, or a vascular disease you should seek professional help before applying any type of heat treatment. You should never apply any sort of heat to a recent injury. When the tissue is damaged and inflamed, the last thing you need is bringing more blood to those vessels.

Rest assured that chronic pain can lead to additional problems. Before you try out home remedies and warm bottles, you should consult your doctor or a therapist. Joints, muscles and trigger points of your pain can often cause further issues and even permanent damage.

Remember to rest

Rest and relaxation is advised. By doing so, you are automatically reducing your metabolism needs, and the injured area will certainly only benefit from the decrease of the blood flow. This concerns your stress level too. However, if you are experiencing back pain, or lower back pain, please be advised to inform yourself about how a bad rest can have a negative influence on your healing process.

One for the road, and third time the charm, we will again advise you to seek for professional help and your therapist’s advice if you are not certain of the nature of injury, and if you start feeling any additional discomfort, please do contact a professional. Take care.