It is important to note that both heat and cold can help reduce pain. Nevertheless, some find it confusing to decide on which one is suitable at a particular time. There are basic rules that you have to take into consideration. If you will register for first aid training, you can learn how to effectively utilize these treatment options.
- Heat is used for chronic pain or injuries that is a day old or more.
- Cold is used for acute pain or a newly acquired injury that is swelling.
Eventually, you have to select which works best. In case the application of ice feels unpleasant, the heat might provide more comfort. Nevertheless, it is vital to take into consideration the type of injury sustained. There are various types of injuries that need certain treatments to properly heal. It is best to consult a doctor for medical assessment and treatment.
Heat for pain relief
It is important to note that heat or thermotherapy provides a relaxing effect. This is why overly worked muscles react best to heat. The heat will stimulate the blood flow, soothe sore muscles and relaxes the spasms.
How heat therapy works?
The overworked muscles become sore due to a chemical called lactic acid. The lactic acid accumulates once the muscle are placed under stress and deprived of oxygen. Once there is a diminished flow of blood to the damaged area, the lactic acid is trapped. Take note that the build-up creates sore muscle aches. The use of heat therapy can help restore the flow of blood and hasten the removal of lactic acid from the muscles.
When to use heat therapy?
- Heat is suitable for treating chronic pain that is persistent or recurrent.
- Heat increases the blood supply and stimulates the flushing out of toxins as well as relaxing soreness and stiffness.
- For an ongoing injury, you can apply heat before exercising. The application of heat after exercise can worsen the existing pain.
Cold for pain relief
Essentially, cold therapy or cryotherapy is utilized on freshly-acquired injuries. Once the body is injured, the damaged tissue becomes swollen which results to pain, redness or swelling. Take note that swelling is the natural response of the body to injury. It is sad to note that localized swelling can compress neighboring tissues which causes pain.
How cold works?
When ice is used, it helps numb the injury. The cold constricts the blood vessels and slows down the flow of blood. This will reduce the buildup of fluid in the affected area. Take note that ice is also believed to help control swelling and inflammation. It helps relieve pain, but does not treat the underlying cause.
When to use cold therapy
Cold is ideal for acute pain due to recent tissue damage. This is used for recent injuries or those that are inflamed, sensitive or reddened.
Application of an ice pack can help reduce inflammation after exercise and can sometimes relieve pain in chronic injuries.