By Brian Acton
Heat and cold therapy can be used to provide soothing relief to pain and injuries. While there are no healing properties associated with heat or cold therapy, they can alleviate symptoms and manage pain, helping you recover from an injury faster.
But it’s important to know when you should apply heat and when you should apply cold - otherwise, you could end up prolonging or worsening your injury. In most cases, it depends on the nature of the injury itself.
When to Use Cold Therapy
Cold therapy can be performed using store-bought cold packs or by creating a cold compress from ice, a plastic bag, and a washcloth. The cold pack will simply be applied to an injured area for around 20 minutes.
Cold therapy is best used to treat recent injuries that have occurred within the past 48 hours. If you are experiencing pain, swelling, or inflammation from a new injury, cold therapy is the right choice. It can also be used to treat headaches, post-workout sore muscles, and joint pain that comes with swelling.
By applying cold to the injury, you numb the pain and constrict the blood vessels, slowing blood flow and preventing fluid buildup. This results in less pain and reduced swelling for the affected area.
You should not use cold therapy for areas of chronic pain, older injuries, or stiff and inflexible joints.
When to Use Heat Therapy
Heat therapy can be performed using store-bought packs, which can be applied to an injured area for around 20 minutes or more. Longer heat therapy sessions can be completed in a bath or steam room.
Heat therapy is appropriate for chronic, recurring pain and injuries that are older than 48 hours. Recurring muscle pain and soreness, neck and back pain, tense shoulders, and older injuries are all examples of issues that are suitable for heat therapy. Arthritic pain that causes stiffness and soreness, muscle cramps, and tight muscles can also benefit from heat.
Hotter temperatures relax your muscles by stimulating blood flow, which can reduce spasms, provide soothing relief, and allow for a greater range of motion. This is why hot packs are beneficial for stiffness and soreness.
You shouldn’t apply heat therapy to inflamed, swollen areas or very fresh injuries, as the heat can increase blood flow and make swelling worse.
Use cold therapy for recent injuries, swelling, inflammation, or pain. Use hot therapy to relieve chronic pain, reduce stiffness or soreness, or provide a better range of motion. Knowing when to use heat and when to use cold will prepare you to relieve new injuries and old injuries alike and recover faster.
Need an easy way to deliver heat or cold therapy to your system? Core Products CorPaks are versatile packs that can be cooled in the freezer or warmed in the microwave to provide relief, no matter what temperature you require.