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Using Hot and Cold Therapy for Pain Relief

Using Hot and Cold Therapy for Pain Relief
4 Nov 13

Using Hot and Cold Therapy for Pain Relief


When treating injuries, including muscle sprains, back pain or other ailments, ice packs and heating pads are the most commonly used treatments.

But that always begs the question:  “Do I use ice or heat?”  Choosing the correct therapy is very important for pain relief. There are times when heat should be applied, and other times when you should use ice.

Cold Therapy:

This treatment is usually used for those injuries, where swelling is an issue, such as ankle sprains and muscle strains. Using a cold therapy is advised within 48 hours after the injury. Simply wrap a cold pack in a towel and cover the injured area for no more than 20 minutes to ensure you don’t cause additional harm. The more time you apply on ice does not equal more relief! The idea is to decrease the amount of swelling which will then help t0 control pain.

Heat Therapy:

This is an excellent way to treat those conditions that are chronic, such as back pain. Applying heat allows the muscles to relax while loosening tissues to stimulate blood flow to the affected area.

The rule is not to use any form of heat treatment after an acute injury, but rather use heat before an activity that may irritate a chronic injury. Using a heating pad or hot water bottle are two popular methods when applying heat therapy. Apply the heat source for no more than 20 minutes and avoid applying any heat that could cause a burn.

So generally speaking, when there is swelling, apply cold therapy. To loosen muscles for an ongoing condition, use heat therapy. Of course, follow your doctor’s advice in severe cases of injury or pain. Your massage therapist will also have good advice for home treatment of muscle aches.


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