Hot And Cold Therapies Explained
Treating pain, inflammation and injury with hot and cold therapies can be extremely effective and affordable. However, its important to know which situations call for hot, which call for cold and which may benefit from both treatments. Importantly, this kind of therapy is very good for arthritis and can help ease pain and stiffness that comes with the condition.
What is cold therapy?Cold therapy reduces blood flow to the applied area, slows the rate of inflammation and reduces the risk of swelling and tissue damage. It can also temporarily numb sore tissues to help with pain.
Types of Cold Therapy
- Ice packs available to purchase, or use a plastic bag filled with ice or frozen vegetables and wrapping it in a dry cloth. As a general rule, ice packs are used for 20 minutes, removed for 1-2 hours, before being applied again.
- Ice baths body part is immersed in cold water
- Ice massage ice cube or ice pack is moved around the sore area or joint in a circular motion
- Vaporizing sprays very short term effect
Cold Therapy is Best for
- Acute stages of inflammation such as a recent sprain or injury
- Tendinitis or irritation on the tendons following activity
Heat therapy dilates the blood vessels, stimulate blood flow and reduces muscle spasms.
Types of heat therapy
Hot therapy is best for
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Tidbits On Beating The Heat
To prevent the heat from aggravating your underlying pain, here are some tips on staying cool.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and limit alcohol and caffeine intake.
- Choose shade over basking in the sun or indoors with an air-conditioner or fan.
- Wear loose-fitted cotton, breathable clothing and wear a hat and sunglasses when outside.
- Carry a water bottle around with you or a mini-fan to keep cool.
- Apply a cold washcloth to your neck or run cold water over your wrists to quickly cool yourself down.
Cochrane Review: Thermotherapy Versus Cryotherapy
A Cochrane Review assessed three randomized, controlled clinical trials involving 179 patients with knee osteoarthritis. Patients were allowed to continue taking their medications but also used hot, cold, or ice packs and towels, with or without massage. They were compared to a control group receiving no treatment. Reviewers looked for outcomes of pain relief, reduction of edema/swelling, and improvement of knee flexion , range of motion, and function. Here are the results of the Cochrane Review:
- The first of the three studies revealed that massaging with ice for 20 minutes a day, five days a week, for two weeks improved muscle strength in the leg, improved range of motion in the knee, and resulted in less time needed to walk 50 feet, compared to the control group.
- The second study showed that knee osteoarthritis patients using ice packs for three days a week for three weeks had no significant improvement in pain compared to patients receiving no treatment.
- The third study indicated that cold packs applied to the knee for 20 minutes, ten times, resulted in decreased swelling compared to the control group who received no treatment. Hot packs used for the same amount of time had the same effect on swelling as the control group who received no treatment.
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Best Thermotherapy According To Your Knee Arthritis
Lets clarify something first there are over 100 types of arthritis!
See, the word arthritis only means inflammation of the joint. Its a medical term to say the joint is swollen, but it doesnt tell us why.
Now, these are the most common types of arthritis :
- Osteoarthritis. Due to wear and tear. Ironically, its NOT inflammatory.
- Gout. Here, uric acid crystals accumulate in the joints, causing inflammation.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. An autoimmune disease that affects the joints.
And, the truth is that anyone with these chronic diseases can benefit from cold and hot therapies.
But, research shows one thermotherapy may provide more benefits than the other, depending on the condition:
The Donts Of Applying Hot Packs For Arthritis
- Now, it isnt difficult to guess that heat can make acute inflammation worse. Heat should NOT be applied in acute pain, acute injuries, and in bleeding, even when these occur to an arthritic joint. Applying heat to a fresh injury will only worsen the pain.
- Do not use heat if you have any open wounds or substantial bruises
- Not recommended for patients with diabetes
Note: Tiger balms and other capsaicin-containing topical ointments are only spicy that is they make you feel hot they do not increase heat physiologically. They distract our mind from pain they do not affect pain.
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Should I Use Heat Or Cold For My Arthritis Pain
Its a common question when trying to find relief for your symptoms- should I use heat or cold for my arthritis pain? The answer to this question simply is there are therapeutic benefits to using both hot and cold treatments to help address your pain symptoms, especially the pain associated with arthritis. Both heat and cold treatments can stimulate the body to heal itself. The trick is knowing when to reach for the heating pad or the ice pack or both and how long to use each treatment to alleviate the pain being experienced.
Heat is an effective treatment for loosening stiff joints and soothing tired muscles. It loosens the body up prior to exercise and can help with relaxation and reducing muscle spasms. It also increases blood flow to an area and promotes healing. Heat however is not recommended on swollen, red or irritated joints, that is where a cold pack will be helpful. Cold treatments are effective for acute pain when constricting blood flow aids in decreasing inflammation and swelling.
Cold treatments include applying a frozen gel pack or a frozen bag of vegetables to the affected area, helping to reduce inflammation, leading to joint pain. Switching between hot and cold therapy can offer excellent arthritis pain management benefits, as long as each one is used appropriately.
When To Use Ice For Psa Pain Relief
Lets do a symptom check are your joints currently warm and swollen? Dr. Mala Kaul, a rheumatologist and speaker at the event, stated that cold packs should be used when joints are inflamed and feel hot. When there is inflammation, you want the blood vessels to constrict, so thats when cold is good. When you put something cold on the body all the blood vessels start to constrict, explained Dr. Kaul. This constricting can numb the area, ultimately dulling the pain.
She also advised that heat should never be used on an area that feels warm to touch. Heat to an area that is already hot can cause further swelling and redness.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, cold packs will help to alleviate pain by restricting blood vessels and slowing down circulation which decreases swollen joints and inflammation. It is also useful if the area which is flared feels hot, is red, or has a burning sensation.
Dr. Kaul warns one should never use a cold pack to joints which are stiff or if you have circulatory issues.
Cold packs, bags of frozen veggies wrapped with a towel, or ice baths for the affected areas are all adequate ways to relieve pain using cold temperatures.
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When To Use Heat Versus Ice For Pain
Depending on the type of pain you have, one may be better than the other.
Every pain is different. Each type can be a symptom of an underlying issue, an unpleasant sidekick to a condition, or an overall nuisance on everyday life. Treating pain can vary as well. While going straight to the doctor or trying an over-the-counter medication are options, another can be applying hot or cold compresses to the area where the pain is happening.
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What Does Warmth And Warming Better Help With
Arthritis. Any chronic pain in joints and muscles, because heat increases blood flow.
Headache. Only if it is accompanied by spasms in the neck area the heat relaxes the muscles.
Sprains of muscles and ligaments. It helps well against numbness, however, heat compresses and heating pads can be used only after the body and medications have coped with the inflammation, otherwise you can make things worse.
Tendinosis a chronic feeling of numbness in the tendons near the ligaments. Heat fights well with it.
fever is good in all cases when the pain or injuries are chronic and they are at least a month and a half. The heat increases the blood flow, which relaxes the muscles and ligaments.
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Mechanism Of Action And Indications
Heat creates higher tissue temperatures, which produces vasodilation that increases the supply of oxygen and nutrients and the elimination of carbon dioxide and metabolic waste.
Moist heat can be used on abscesses to help drain the abscess faster. A study from 2005 showed heat therapy to be effective in treating leishmaniasis, a tropical parasitic skin infection.
Heat therapy is also sometimes used in cancer treatment to augment the effect of chemotherapy or radiotherapy, but it is not enough to kill cancer cells on its own.
The use of Heat therapy for deep-seated tissue can be treated with shortwave, microwave, and ultrasonic waves. This produces a high temperature that penetrates deeper. Shortwave produces a 27 MHz current, microwaves use 915 and 2456 MHz, and ultrasound is an acoustic vibration of 1 MHz. The way ultrasonic waves work is they selectively superimpose the incoming wave and increase the energy for absorption, and the significant part of the longitudinal compression gets converted into shear waves. When they are rapidly absorbed, the interface between soft tissue and bone is selectively heated.
Does Alternating Heat And Cold Therapy Help
Many people find it beneficial to alternate between heat and cold therapy. You can switch between hot and cold therapies throughout the day. Usually, its best to wait at around 20 minutes between sessions, though you can also alternate between hot and cold water in the shower. Always start and finish with a cold treatment.
Talk with your doctor before alternating between full-body treatments such as an ice bath and a sauna or hot tub.
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Heat Or Ice For Arthritis In Thumb
You can help reduce swelling and pain by icing the joint for five to fifteen minutes several times per day. Apply heat to the surfaces. Some people may find that heat is more effective than cold when it comes to relieving pain.
Arthritis is a condition that causes joint pain, inflammation, and stiffness. There is no cure for this condition, but natural treatments such as heat and cold therapy can help slow its progression and alleviate its symptoms. Cold therapy, also known as cryotherapy, reduces swelling and inflammation in the affected area by lowering blood flow. Heat therapy is available for arthritis through a number of different methods. Heat therapy improves blood flow and blood vessel contraction in the body. It also helps to boost the amount of blood, oxygen, and nutrients delivered to the area. Arthritis is thought to be alleviated by lowering inflammation, stiffness, and pain.
Hot Vs Cold For Pain: Whats The Difference
While both temperatures can soothe pain, they do so in different ways. Heat increases blood flow, nutrients, and oxygen to the affected area and, therefore, works to relax tight muscles. Cold lessens pain by reducing inflammation, muscle spasms, and circulation. While reducing circulation sounds bad, its actually a good thing because less circulation means your blood vessels shrink, which then lessens swelling and bleeding.
Lets explore the different kinds of pain and how each respond when heat or cold is introduced:
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Headaches: Ice Or Heat
The right treatment depends on the type of headache you have. Headaches caused from tension can benefit from heat therapy, which helps relax tight muscles throughout the neck and jaw, says Jeffrey Yellin, DPT, CSCS, at Professional Physical Therapy. Sinus headaches can also benefit from the use of heat therapy to help warm nasal passages and loosen some of the built-up secretions. Migraines, or other vascular induced headaches, tend to respond better with the use of cold therapy.
You could also try these home remedies for headaches.
When Your Sciatica Warrants A Visit To Your Doctor
Its important to recognize when at-home therapies arent easing your sciatica. If these treatments dont help you, it may be time to see your personal doctor or spine specialist.
People avoid the doctor for a variety of reasons. Maybe youre unsure about how to use your health insurance or you dont have any. Or perhaps you simply dont like visiting the doctor and prefer an ignorance-is-bliss approach.
Whatever the reason, some sciatica symptoms truly warrant medical attention. In rare cases, delaying medical care could lead to or cause permanent nerve damage.
If you experience any of the following, please see your doctor as soon as possible:
- You have severe pain in your low back and legs
- You experience nerve-related symptoms, such as weakness, numbness, tingling, or electric shock-like pain
- Your pain doesnt improve after 2 weeks
- Your pain gets worse, even when using at-home therapies
- You have loss of bowel and/or bladder control
Easing the extreme pain of sciatica doesnt always require an extreme treatment approach. Relieving sciatic nerve pain at home with gentle exercise, ice and heat therapy, proper posture, and medication may go along way to speed your recovery. But the most important thing you can do for your low back and leg pain is to take it seriouslyalways call your doctor if you arent experiencing relief.
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Heat Or Ice Which Is Best For An Older Dog
Knowing what is best for your older dog when it comes to treatment of their ailments and making them more comfortable can change as your dog gets older. If your dog is in pain or has an injury, the difference between using heat or ice can be the difference in the way they heal and the quality of their life.
How Often Should I Use Ice Or Heat For Joint Pain
As long as youre being smart about which therapy you use and careful about how to use it, Dr. Torres-Panchame says they are okay to use repetitively throughout the day.
It doesnt need to be a formal sit-on-the-couch-with-your-leg-up type of treatment. You may find youre already benefitting from thermal therapy without even realizing it. If taking a hot shower or bath every morning is very soothing to your joints, then youre already reaping the benefits of heat therapy.
Other patients say that washing their hands with hotter-than-usual water is a quick way to sooth their hands throughout the day. Some people report that they actually like washing dishes after meals because its an easy way to use heat therapy.
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Bicep Tenodesis Surgical Repair: What To Expect
Bicep tenodesis is a routine procedure. Nonetheless the prospect of surgery can be stressful for patients and loved ones prior to the procedure. That said, from presurgical anesthesia preparations to idiosyncrasies of the surgery itself, there are some basic concepts to understand beforehand. How long does a standard bicep tenodesis traditionally last? How long will you be monitored in the recovery room after the procedure? We will answer those questions and others in this article.
Whether youre on the playing field or in the house, the occasional bump, bruise, sprain or pang is inevitable. These injuries may be sudden or the result of overuse and gradual wear and tear. Fortunately, less severe aches and pains may not require professional medical attention. In fact, many common injuries can be effectively treated with ice therapy, heat therapy, or a combination of the two. However, knowing when to use heat or ice and whether to use ice or heat first can be tricky. In this post, we will explain the proper at-home care for many frequently asked sports injury questions, such as how to treat a sprained ankle and whether you should use heat or ice for muscle strain. Before we jump into treatment, its important to understand the symptoms and causes of many typical sports injuries.
If You Answered With Pain In The Knee Joint
You might want to opt for ice. If your main problem is knee joint pain, I would apply the ice directly to the most painful area of the joint.
Youll want to use a few layers between the ice and your skin. My preferred method would be:
- Take a bag of frozen peas from the freezer
- Wrap a thin towel around them
- Dampen the towel slightly, then apply to the painful area for 15 minutes
- Remove the peas/towel and let the area heat back up to its natural skin temperature
- You can then apply the peas/towel again. There is no limit to how many times you can do this.
- Always look out for any signs of ice burn on your skin and remove immediately if you see or feel anything.
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