What is the difference between heat and cold therapy and when I should use them?

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09:50 AM

If you have ever been injured before, especially if it was a sports related injury, then you have likely heard conflicting information about what you should do to help ease the pain and promote the healing process. Some trainers, coaches, and physicians will tell you to ice or use cold therapy. Others will tell you to use a warm compress or he therapy. So, what is the right choice.


Cold Therapy

Cold therapy is where ice packs or ice baths are used as a treatment for an acute injury. The purpose of cold therapy is to reduce inflammation. When a person has injured a part of their body, such as their need, foot, or elbow, the response by the body is to send a group of chemicals to the injured area. These chemicals help to stimulate the healing process, but they also cause inflammation. This can lead to a great deal of pain in the affected area, as the swollen region becomes painful.

Cold therapy works in a few ways. First, as mentioned, it reduces inflammation. The second is that it decreases the temperature of the skin and muscles. This can help to override the feeling of pain that you may have, helping to help you to feel better.


Heat Therapy

While cold therapy decreases blood flow to the injured area, heat therapy does the exact opposite. This procedure helps stimulate blood flow, which is helpful in reducing pain caused by overuse or disease. In many instances, sore muscles are caused by a build-up of lactic acid caused by overuse. When you apply heat to these areas, it stimulates the flow of blood which decreases the amount of lactic acid in the muscles. This reduces pain while also increasing the range of motion.


When to Use Which Therapy

These prior paragraphs explain to you exactly when you should be using either heat or cold therapy. If you are any situation where you have injured an area and inflammation is starting to occur, the swelling may be causing you a great deal of pain. In this case, you would want to use cold therapy. This often happens when there is a break in a bone, tearing of a muscle, ligament, or tendon, or a sprain in the region. This can be very painful, and cold therapy can quickly help to reduce the suffering.

If you have overworked a region of your body or have injured it to the point where you can see bruising, then this therapy may be the choice. This helps to bring oxygenated blood that reduces the pain caused by lactic acid or blood build-up. This can help you to feel much better in a brief period of time.

Should you find that the pain has continued for more than a day or if the pain becomes quite excessive, then you will need to visit a professional to assist you. What may have occurred is that you could have suffered a severe injury that needs medical attention. Waiting to have it examined and treated will only exacerbate the problem and is why you need to take action quickly to avoid the injury becoming far more severe.