Heat and cold therapy for pain relief: what is the best therapy according to your needs

Heat and cold therapy for pain relief: what is the best therapy according to your needs

Heat therapy for pain relief

Heat therapy for pain relief

Injuries typically call for temperature therapy in their treatment regimens, but whether to use heat or ice is often confusing. So, how does one determine to use cold treatment versus heat treatment?

Heat or cold therapy for pain relief

Simple and inexpensive, heat and cold treatments are among the most effective methods for pain relief. But, you should know that these types of treatment have differences between each other. We will help figure everything out and show all the possibilities according to individual needs.

Cold Therapy

Cold therapy benefits

Cold therapy benefits

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.

Heat Therapy

Heat therapy benefits

Heat therapy benefits

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 several different conditions and injuries. For example, people use thermotherapy to relax the muscles around an arthritic knee.

Benefits of Cold Therapy

Cryotherapy has a lot of benefits. It reduces blood flow to an injured area. This slows the rate of inflammation and reduces the risk of swelling and tissue damage.  And that’s not all. Let’s talk about it in details.

Weight Loss

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.

No Inflammation

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 increase the inflammatory response.

Strong Nervous System

Cold therapy pain relief

Cold therapy pain relief

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.

Quick Recovery

Cold therapy has great physiological effects including a 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 on damage to muscles.

Benefits of Heat Therapy

So what are the pluses and effects of heat therapy? Applying heat to an inflamed area will dilate the blood vessels, promote blood flow, and help sore and tightened muscles relax. And that’s not all. Let’s talk about it in details.

Read more information about heating therapy in our article ‘Heat treatment for pain’

Relieves Soreness

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.

Soothe Body Stiffness

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.

Ease Stress and Tension

Heat treatment usage

Heat treatment usage

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.

Warm You Up Quickly

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 vs Heat: What Is the Best According to Your Needs

Cold and heat therapy should be used for different purposes. Don’t know what will help with recent injury, gout, strains or tension in muscles? We will help.

When to Use Cold Therapy

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. Also, cold therapy can reduce nerve activity for the short term.

Important: you shouldn’t use cryotherapy on stiff joints and muscles or if you have poor circulation.

When to Use Heat Therapy

Heat therapy is also a useful device 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 full body treatment. Naturally, local and regional treatments are recommended for small pain zones or widespread pain and stiffness.

Is it dangerous to sleep with a heating pad? Read an article to find an answer ‘Sleeping with a heating pad’

Heat vs Cold Therapy

Heat and cold therapy

Heat and cold therapy

Do you know that alternating cold and heat is also effective? Contrast water therapy uses both heat and cold to treat pain. Studies show that it is more effective at reducing EIMD and preventing DOMS. Heat is useful for relieving osteoarthritis, strains and sprains, warming up stiff muscles or tissue before activity, relieving pain or spasms relating to neck or back injury (including the lower back).  Cold treatment, in turn, can help in cases of a recent injury, gout or irritation in the tendons following activity. So, the use of heat and cold therapy are extremely useful. But it is very important to consult with your doctor regarding all types of home treatment. Take care!