Heat and cold therapy are often recommended to help relieve an aching pain that results from muscle or joint damage.
The general rule of thumb is to use cold therapy within 48 hours of injury, this reduces blood flow to an injured area, slowing the rate of inflammation and swelling. Followed by heat therapy, which promotes blood flow and help relax muscles that may be sore and tight.
Cold treatment reduces blood flow to an injured area. This slows the rate of inflammation and reduces the risk of swelling and tissue damage. It also numbs sore tissue, acting as a local anaesthetic, slowing down pain messages being transmitted to the brain. Rest, ice, compression and evaluation (RICE) are part of the standard treatment protocol for sports injuries.
Applying heat to an inflamed area will dilate the blood vessels promoting blood flow. Improved circulation can help eliminate the build-up of lactic acid (a waste product produced by muscles during exercise). Heat is also psychologically reassuring, which can enhance its analgesic properties.
Heat therapy is usually more effective than cold when treating chronic muscle pain or sore joints.
ALTERNATING COLD AND HEAT
When cold is applied to the body, the blood vessels contract and vasoconstriction occurs. This means that circulation is reduced and pain decreases. Removing the cold causes vasodilation, and the veins expand to overcompensate. As the blood vessels expand, circulation improves and the incoming flow of blood brings nutrients to help heal the injured tissues.
SO – WHICH IS BEST?
From having a read of current research and what the majority of therapist use, I don’t think you can go wrong with using either method of therapy. I think that both methods have their advantages during different times of tissue healing after the injury has occured.
WHEN NOT TO USE COLD
– There is a risk of muscle cramping
– If the person is already cold or area is already numb
– There is an open wound or blistered skin
– If the person has some kind of vascular disease or injury
– The person is hypersensitive to cold
– Ice should not be used immediately before activity
WHEN NOT TO USE HEAT
– If the skin is hot, red, or inflamed
– The person has dermatitis or an open wound
– The area is numb
– The person may be insensitive to heat due to peripheral neuropathy or a similar condition
HERE AT COMFORT HEALTH
If you’re struggling with any injury from work or exercise, get in contact with us today via our website. We can offer various types of manual therapy or just a few words of wisdom to help you out.