Injuries typically call for temperature therapy in their treatment regimens, but whether to use heat or ice is often confusing. So, how does one make the determination to use cold treatment versus heat treatment?
Cold body therapy (also known as cryotherapy) is extremely popular, because it has numerous health benefits. Typically, all doctors recommend cold therapy after an injury or surgery. Why? It helps with recovery. A lot of people use ice or ice packs. Unfortunately, the cold does not last for very long.
Cryotherapy works by reducing blood flow to a particular area. It can significantly reduce inflammation and swelling that causes pain, especially around a joint or a tendon. It can temporarily reduce nerve activity, which can also relieve pain.
Thermotherapy is the use of heat in treatment. This type of treatment increases the blood flow, along with protein and oxygen. Heat therapy is also a very common tool for relieving pain.
It is classified as either dry heat or moist heat. It is extremely effective especially before exercise or upon awakening in the morning.
Treating pain with heat can be extremely effective for a number of different conditions and injuries. For example, people use thermotherapy to relax the muscles around an arthritic knee.
Cold exposure increases shivering and non-shivering thermogenesis. These processes increase calorie expenditure. Exposure to cold temperatures leads to increased levels of adiponectin, a protein that increases fat burning. Low levels of which are associated with obesity.
Cold temperatures raise adiponectin. Why is it so important? This protein helps prevent inflammation. Also some studies found that work-outs in the cold can actually increase the inflammatory response.
The increase in fat burning during cold exposure is modulated by the sympathetic nervous system. Cold temperatures act as a mild workout for the nervous system, which adapts and strengthens.
Cold therapy has great physiological effects including reduction in blood flow, swelling, inflammation, muscle spasms, and metabolic demand. Did you know that ice plus exercise is an effective treatment after an ankle sprain or surgery? Cryotherapy also has positive effects for damage to muscles.
Heat therapy can provide relaxation, comfort, and reassurance by taking the edge off of several kinds of body pain. Soreness can come from over-exertion or just from a simple workout if the area being exercised has not been worked in a while. Heat therapy can relieve this pain and soreness by forcing the muscles to relax. This is also why heat therapy can stop muscle spasms as well.
Body stiffness can occur for many reasons, one of them being from sleeping in the wrong position. Stiffness can cause lack of mobility and discomfort. Heat therapy can help by providing a warm, comforting sensation. A heating pad combined with light stretching can ease the pain of muscle stiffness.
Stress and tension throughout the body go hand in hand. Heat can help relieve the tension in these muscles. Heat therapy is a great way to ease stress by relaxing the body. The warmth provides added comfort and a soothing feeling to the affected area.
The most popular benefit of heat is to keep you warm and comfortable for a long time. To warm up quickly, just use a heating pad rather than using endless numbers of blankets that would take an hour to warm up your body temperature.
Cold therapy is the simplest and most common treatment option.The plus is that you can use items already in your freezer. Treatments include ice packs (even frozen vegetables), frozen gel packs, ice baths, or coolant sprays. All of these work by reducing blood flow to the region being iced, or treated. This can aid in significantly reducing the swelling and inflammation that can contribute to pain. It is useful specifically around regions with tendons and joints. In addition, cold therapy can also reduce nerve activity for the short term. Important: you shouldn’t use cryotherapy on stiff joints and muscles or if you have poor circulation.
Heat therapy is also useful for relieving pain. As we have mentioned,treatments are classified as either dry heat or moist heat. In terms of dry heat, you can use a dry heating pack, heating pad, or even a sauna. Regarding moist heat treatments,hot baths, moist heating packs, or even steaming hot towels are the best choices. Moist heat is thought to be more effective, while requiring shorter application times. During heat applications, you can opt to use small scale local or regional treatments, or a full body treatment. Naturally, local and regional treatments are recommended for small pain zones or widespread pain and stiffness.
So, cold and heat therapies are both extremely useful. But it is very important to consult with your doctor regarding all types of home treatment.