Cold Therapy VS Heat Therapy: Which One is Right for You?

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

When it comes to muscle and joint pain relief, there are two types of home remedies to consider: cold and heat therapy. It can be confusing to determine which one is suitable for a specific kind of pain because these therapies are very similar. In today’s post, we are listing down ways to determine which of these therapeutic remedies are best for you:

Cold Therapy

Also known as Cryotherapy or ice pack therapy, cold therapy exposes the affected area to cold temperature to reduce pain and swelling.

Cold therapy is meant to ease inflammation after an injury. When the soft tissues are exposed to trauma, they become swollen, inflamed, and painful. When this occurs, the affected area becomes painful, tender and sensitive to the touch. Mobility is also affected. Cold therapy works by constricting the blood vessels to reduce swelling. It also numbs the affected area temporarily to reduce pain. This treatment is typically used to address pain caused by a sprained ankle, torn muscles, bruised skin, or external inflammation.

When to Apply Cold Therapy

To Reduce Swelling

Do not use heat therapy to ease pain from injuries. The pain will only worsen if you apply heat to the affected area. Cold therapy is geared towards reducing blood flow and constricting the blood vessels. The cold temperature reduces blood flow so fluid does not pool around the injury. This helps reduce bruising.

Ease Nerve Pain

Soft tissues have nerve endings that are very sensitive to pain. This is why sports injuries are extremely painful. The numbing effects of cold therapy help dull the nerve endings so fewer pain signals are sent to the brain.

Other Factors to Consider

Do not use an ice pack before your training. There are different types of ice packs available in your local pharmacy. These products are pliant and are able to maintain the ideal temperature to ease muscle pain. You may also use a bag of frozen peas or sweet corn as an ice pack but most doctors do not recommend them. The packaging of these products has the tendency to leak.

When to Apply Heat Therapy

Also known as thermotherapy, heat therapy utilizes heat to ease pain and soothe sore muscles. This treatment is ideal for arthritic pain, stiff muscles, and deep tissue injuries. Heat therapy is also used in physical therapy to keep the collagen tissues flexible, relieve muscle spasms, promote healing, and decrease joint pain. Unlike cold therapy, heat therapy is meant to increase blood flow to the affected area. The increase in blood flow helps boost proteins, nutrients, and oxygen levels to heal injuries.

When to Apply Hot Therapy

Ease Muscle Stiffness

This therapy is best for treating sore, stiff muscles. Heat therapy loosens the muscle fibers and boosts elasticity. When the soft tissues are exposed to heat, the fibers expand due to increased blood flow. The constricted muscles start to loosen, soothing pain.

Boost Mobility

The heat emanating from a heat pack is meant to relax the muscles to boost mobility. Therapeutic heat therapy is meant to ease muscle spasms, menstrual cramps, and back pain.


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