Both heat and cold treatment can help reduce pain, however it can be confusing to decide which is more appropriate at any given time.
Use ice packs for acute pain, swelling and inflammation.
Use heat for chronic pain.
These are general rules, but if cold feels unpleasant, then heat may provide more comfort. Different types of injury need different treatments to heal properly.
Ice and heat are not substitutes for medical evaluation and treatment.
How ice therapy works:
When should I use ice therapy?
Tip: You should apply ice after going for a run.
Types of ice therapy:
Heat is relaxing and overworked muscles respond best to heat. Heat stimulates blood flow and relaxes spasms.
Heat therapy is also known as thermotherapy.
Overworked muscles become sore from a chemical called lactic acid. Lactic acid accumulates when the muscles are put under stress and are deprived of oxygen, hence creates painful muscles.
Heat therapy can restore blood flow and speed up the removal of lactic acid from muscles.
Heat is best for treating chronic pain. Chronic pain is persistent or recurrent pain. Heat increases blood supply. It stimulates the elimination of toxins and relaxes soreness and stiffness.
If you suffer from an ongoing injury, apply heat before exercising.
Applying heat after exercise can aggravate an injury.
There are two types of heat therapy:
Local heat is applied to a specific area with: moist heat (hot, damp towel), hot water bottle or heat pad.
Systemic Heat is either a hot bath, sauna, steam bath or hot shower.
For local heat: wrap heat sources within a folded towel to prevent burns. Apply for around 10 minutes at the time and repeat until you feel more comfort.
For systemic heat: avoid prolonged exposure to systemic heat therapy and stay hydrated.
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