You can treat almost every pain and discomfort with a hot and cold compress. Using a hot and cold reusable compress is an effective way to treat muscle pain. Plus, it’s affordable. But the tricky part is to tell what condition calls for hot therapy. Sometimes you need a combination of both to alleviate pain.
Generally, you have to use cold compression therapy for acute pain or injuries, along with swelling and inflammation. On the other hand, heat therapy is good for stiffness or muscle pain.
Heat therapy works well for improving blood flow and circulation to a specific area. The increased blood flow is due to the high temperature in the afflicted area. It even helps in soothing discomfort while increasing flexibility in muscles. The hot therapy further soothes and relaxes muscles while healing damaged tissues.
There are two major types of heat therapy – moist and dry heat. Both types aim to provide warmth to the affected area.
Dry heat is often provided with heating pads, saunas and dry heating packs. So, it’s easy to apply. On the other hand, moist heat sources are moist heating packs, streamed towels or hot baths. Moist heat is slightly more effective compared to dry heat. Moreover, it needs less application time to deliver the same results.
When using heat therapy, you can apply it for local, whole or regional body treatment. Local treatment is for small areas of pain, such as muscle stiffness. You may use a hot water bottle or small heated gel packs to treat local injuries. The regional treatment is suited for more widespread stiffness or pain. You can achieve it with large heating wraps/pads or streamed towels. And, the full-body treatment can be achieved through hot baths and saunas.
Heat therapy is beneficial when it’s applied for a good amount of time. It doesn’t have to be limited just like ice compression pack therapy.
You have to apply heat therapy for 15 to 20 minutes for minor stiffness. And, apply it for 30 minutes to 2 hours for moderate to severe pain.
Cold therapy, or cold compression therapy or cryotherapy, works simply by reducing blood flow to the affected area. Due to this, there’s a significant reduction in swelling or inflamed area that causes pain – particularly around a tendon or a joint. It can temporarily decrease nerve activity that may also relieve pain.
There are various ways to apply cold therapy to a particular area. Some of the treatment options include:
Sometimes you may also need a combination of hot and cold reusable compress to treat severe pain. For guidance, you must consult a physician.
You can apply an ice pack wrapped in a cloth or ice bath to an area with pain. But never apply a frozen item to your skin directly, as it may cause skin or tissue damage. Apply cold therapy as soon as possible after injury.
It’s best to use cold therapy for a short period several times a day. You can apply it for 10 to 15 minutes. But not more than 20 minutes.
If you know when to use heat therapy and when to use cold therapy, the treatment’s effectiveness increases to a great extent. Arthritic patients, for instance, need heat therapy for joint stiffness and cold compression for acute pain and swelling. Sometimes you need a combination of hot and cold reusable compress.
But if the treatment makes the discomfort or pain worse, stop it instantly and call or visit a doctor for the best treatment.