Using alternating heat and cold is a great way to manage pain and reduce inflammation, but knowing which to use can get confusing. These two home remedies are a great option for minor injuries such as bruises and sprains, but they are not a suitable replacement for professional medical attention.
Both heat and cold can be used separately or alternated to help minimize pain, but many are unsure of which is more appropriate for their injury. The main thing to remember is that cold generally works better for acute injuries that are inflamed or swelling. Heat, on the other hand, is better for ongoing pain or soreness after exercising. Both heat and cold can be used to treat different types of injuries, but it is important to immediately stop if there is any pain. This is especially true with cold presses that can damage the outer layer of skin if they are left on for too long or if they get too cold.
Thermotherapy is the use of heat wraps, warm water, or heat presses to increase blood flow to an area and soothe soft tissue. When a muscle is used rigorously it will become inflamed and fill up with lactic acid. When heat is applied to that muscle and the blood flow increases, the lactic acid will be flushed away. Some of the best options for thermotherapy include saunas, hot showers, baths, warm towels, heat presses, and water bottles filled with warm water.
To lower the chance of a burn, it is best to wrap the heating device with a folded towel. Anyone that would like to carry out thermotherapy should do it just before exercising as it could aggravate pain if done after. It is also important to stay hydrated while doing this therapy and to take regular breaks every 10 to 15 minutes.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is cryotherapy, or treating an injury with something cold such as a bag of ice. While thermotherapy is a great option for ongoing injuries to soft tissue, cryotherapy is most effective for fresh injuries. The ice pack or cold press should only be applied to the area for less than 20 minutes and extremely cold objects should never directly touch the skin. Cryotherapy can be done after exercising to reduce post-workout inflammation of the muscles and joints.
These two forms of therapy are not only affordable and safe, they can be done right from the comfort of your own home. If you have recently been injured or are experiencing sore muscles after exercising, try out both cryotherapy and thermotherapy for pain relief.