Be it a gym injury, an awkward sleeping position, less or sudden movement of a joint or muscle, a major fall or a chronic muscle/joint condition – all these can cause soreness, stiffness and injuries, leading to mild to severe pain. Recovery in such cases might need a little more help than just pills, creams and rest. Today let’s explore the ‘temperature treatment’ method to combat such pains and injuries safely.
Cryotherapy and Heat Compress Therapy
A varied number of conditions and injuries, right from arthritis to inflammation and muscle pull can be treated with either cold or heat therapy. Such a treatment if often safe, effective and easily affordable. Let’s understand these both in detail –
What is Cryotherapy?
The application of ice packs is known as Cryotherapy. It is a very common and effective treatments to ease pain and swelling from minor injuries. The ice/ cold packs come in many different varieties. Some are sacks of gel that turn into ice packs in your freezer; others are packets designed to turn cold instantly with a simple squeeze, no freezing required. You can also make your own cold pack by wrapping some ice or a bag of frozen vegetables in a towel.
How does it Work?
Cryotherapy works by reducing blood flow to a particular area, which can significantly reduce inflammation and swelling that causes pain, especially around a joint or a tendon. It also numbs sore tissues, acting as a local anaesthetic, and slows down the pain messages being transmitted to the brain. It is most effective within 48 hours of an injury.
When to use Ice Packs?
As a general rule of thumb, use ice for acute injuries or pain, along with inflammation and swelling.
- a recent injury
- cold mask or wrap around the forehead may help reduce the pain of a migraine.
How to use?
Use cold therapy for short periods of time, several times a day. 10 – 15 minutes is fine, and no more than 20 minutes of cold therapy should be used at a time to prevent nerve, tissue, and skin damage. For osteoarthritis, people are advised to use an ice massage or apply a cold pad 10 minutes on and 10 minutes off.
Prolonged, direct contact with cold can damage skin and nerves so be sure to wrap your cold pack in a towel. If you have diabetes, poor circulation, or blood vessel disorders it is best you talk to your doctor before using a cold pack. Also, avoid this on stiff joints and muscles.
What is Heat Compress Therapy?
Gentle application of little to mild heat (warm not hot) on the aching area is known as Heat Compress Therapy. It is yet another well-known method to treat stiffness and soreness in joints and muscles. There are two different types of heat therapy: dry heat (heating pads, saunas) and moist heat (steamed towels, hot baths).
How does it Work?
Applying heat to an inflamed area will open up the blood vessels, promote blood flow, and help soothe discomfort, increase muscle flexibility and heal damaged tissue. Improved circulation can help eliminate the build-up of lactic acid waste that occurs after some types of exercise. Psychologically reassuring, heat can enhance its analgesic properties.
When to use Heat Therapy?
Heat is useful for relieving:
- strains and sprains
- chronic stiffness in the tendons
- warming up stiff muscles or tissue before activity
- relieving pain or spasms relating to neck or back injury, including the lower back (esp. as a result of exercise)
How to Use?
Minor stiffness or tension can often be relieved with only 15 to 20 minutes of heat therapy.
Moderate to severe pain can benefit from longer sessions of heat therapy like warm bath, lasting between 30 minutes and two hours.
Some physical therapists recommend alternating between heat and cold for people with painful muscle spasms or chronic problems such as arthritis.
Avoid heat therapy when you have –
- area which is bruised/swollen
- open wound
- vascular diseases
- deep vein thrombosis
- multiple sclerosis
Now that you know your alternatives for relieving those pains, put this knowledge to the best use to recover faster. However, if there are any major doubts or health conditions, please talk to your doctor. Self-medication of any kind is simply not advised in such cases. Besides that, should you have any other doubts about the temperature therapy, please drop a comment below and I will be more than happy to help you out!