Cold vs. Heat Therapy: When to Use Each Method

Not sure if cold vs. heat therapy will be better for your injury or ache? Read on to learn when to use these healing methods.

As of 2019, at least 20.4% of American adults live with chronic pain. Learning about cold vs. heat therapy will improve your pain levels.

Around 7.4% of American adults deal with chronic pain that limits their life and work activities. If you deal with any pain level, it’s essential to find the type of therapy that’s best for reducing it.

Cold vs. Heat Therapy: When to Use Each Method

Pain decreases your quality of life. You deserve to know the difference between cold and heat therapy as well as when to use them.

Here’s what you need to know about using ice or heat for pain.

Heat Therapy 101

The first step to using heat or ice therapy is knowing the difference between the two. Heat therapy refers to the application of heat to the body. Its purpose is to bring pain relief by improving blood flow circulation to a particular body part.

There are two primary types of heat therapy: moist heat and dry heat. Dry heat comes from dry sources like heating pads, heating packs, and more. Meanwhile, moist heat includes moist heating packs, hot baths, or steamed towels.

Heat therapy soothes muscles and damaged tissue. It’s also good for treating stiffness and widespread body pain. However, you must never apply heat to acute injuries, which are injuries less than six weeks old.

Not sure if cold vs. heat therapy will be better for your injury or ache? Read on to learn when to use these healing methods.

Cold Therapy 101

Cold therapy is also called cryotherapy. It refers to applying coldness to decrease blood flow to a painful part of the body.

If you’re deciding on whether to use a cold vs. hot compress, use the presence of inflammation to make your decision. Cold therapy is the best option for reducing inflammation, swelling, and sharp pain. This is especially true for inflammation near the joint or tendon.

Using cold therapy to decrease inflammation and fluid buildup is one of the oldest tips in the chiropractor textbook. Learn more about these tips through the previous link. Use cold therapy using ice packs, cooling gels, frozen gel packs, and ice massage.

Only use cold therapy for short periods throughout the day. Feel free to use it for 10 to 15-minute intervals, but never for more than 20 minutes per session. Three sessions per day bring improvement.

Muscle Pain Relief

Using ice or heat for sore muscles depends on the type of muscle soreness you’re experiencing. Heat is best for muscle stiffness, joint stiffness, and chronic muscle pain. The most common type of chronic pain is chronic lower back pain, which heat helps.

Again, cold therapy works for reducing acute injuries, sharp muscle pain, and muscle spasms.

It’s always good to use ice or heat before bed. That way, you’ll feel the pain relief and get to relax in time to get a good night’s sleep.

Alternating between heat and cold therapy helps to decrease muscle pain induced by exercise. Try it if you feel muscle pain after your first workout.

Use Cold vs. Heat Therapy to Your Advantage

Most sufferers are women. Knowing how/when to use cold vs. heat therapy is a step toward making women’s pain seriously.

If you experience a type of pain that’s rare, don’t fret. Your pain is valid and deserves treatment for relief.

Educate yourself—check out more of our articles about parenting. It’ll make your household a happier place.

By The Mom Kind

Alicia Trautwein is an Autism advocate, writer, motivational speaker, and dedicated mom of four. Alicia’s desire to advocate for Autism comes from her own autism diagnosis and that of her three children, niece, and brother. Her life’s mission is to educate on autism acceptance and change the world for future generations of autistic individuals.

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