Hot & Cold Therapy
For muscle pain, sprains and injuries, hot & cold treatments can give you fast relief and reduce the amount of pain medication needed. Heat and cold therapies work in different ways and provide different benefits. That means that sometimes, knowing which is the best treatment to use can be confusing.
Both hot & cold therapies work with your body’s own physiological methods to reduce pain, stiffness and prevent further injury. When an acute injury occurs, the body’s response is to open the blood vessels in the area. Increased blood flow sends more oxygen, nutrients and cells that can fight damage or infection to the site. Increased blood flow also creates swelling, your body’s natural way of restricting movement so there is no further injury.
Heat Therapy to relieve pain
Any increase in temperature of the skin or deeper structures causes the blood vessels to open, or dilate. A greater amount of blood can flow into the area when the vessels are dilated. This increases the temperature in the area, allows more infection fighting cells to work, changes the amount of fluid that can flow through the blood vessels and raises the metabolic activity of the cells that surround the damaged tissues. Because heat causes increased blood flow, it should not be used for the first 24-48 hours after an injury. Heat is therapeutic for many chronic and long term pain conditions.
Lowering the temperature around an injured area works in the opposite way. Blood vessels respond to cold by constricting or closing down. This vasoconstriction restricts blood flow to an injured area. If there is an open wound, it will help to limit the amount of bleeding. Although less blood can enter the area, the blood vessels in the skin can dilate and the skin may look redder due to reactive hyperemia. The overall result of cold treatment is a decrease in swelling and the metabolic activity of the local cells. Ultimately, pain relief occurs for a combination of these factors. Immediate application of cold packs can reduce the pain and severity of injuries and burns. Cooling injured areas prevents swelling, or edema from occurring or becoming worse. If applied quickly enough, cold treatment can reduce or prevent the formation of blisters.