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How to Relieve Pain with Hot and Cold Therapy

Close-up Of A Person Applying Ice Gel Pack On An Injured Elbow At Home

Marc Kaplan |

11% of Americans
struggle with chronic pain of some kind.

If you suffer from chronic pain, it may feel as if remedies are far and few between.

This is particularly the case if over-the-counter pain medications simply don't cut it for you, or if you regularly experience joint or nerve pain.

The good news is that it is possible to find pain relief without taking medication. In fact, all you need is access to temperature.

Hot and cold therapy can be your solution to remedying aches and injuries of any kind.

In this post, we'll look at how this healing modality can provide the pain relief you seek.

What is Hot and Cold Therapy?

Temperature therapy entails treating targeted areas of pain with heat and cold.

Many individuals struggling with aching muscles or nerve pain may already rely on temperature as a form of straightforward, home-based treatment.

Most people rely on one temperature alone when treating pain.

Some will treat a sprained ankle with a bag of ice, for example. A woman suffering from menstrual cramps may rely on a heating pad to ease muscle tension in the lower back or abdomen.

In both cases, temperature serves as a means of reducing swelling and relaxing muscle fibers.

However, using both temperatures at once can double the effects of this useful therapy for specific situations. Alternating hot and cold therapy extremely viable means of speeding up injury recovery and meeting your body's needs as it experiences pain.

Hot and cold therapy is easy to employ at home. It requires access to objects that can transmit the right temperature for healing. In most cases, this means reaching for a bag of frozen peas or a heating pad.

In others, more targeted intervention may be needed. We'll discuss this later on in this post.

How to Implement Hot and Cold Therapy

Alternating hot and cold therapy is not a solution for all kinds of pain. For this reason, use caution when implementing it and be sure to follow these steps.

1. Assess the Type and Severity of Pain

Take a moment to identify the type of pain you are experiencing. For many, this may be an obvious step.

You may have twisted your ankle on a run, for example, and are experiencing pain from inflammation. You may be experiencing shooting pains in your elbow from carpel tunnel.

Identify if the pain is localized or generic. Localized pain lies in one specific part of your body, such as a finger, limb, or muscle. Generic pain is more comprehensive and fans out over a larger radius, such as body aches, back pain, or leg pain.

Also, assess the severity of the pain you are experiencing. For severe or debilitating pain, seek medical attention immediately. Moderate to mild pain, however, can be feasibly treated with hot and cold therapy.

Lastly, categorize the form of pain you are experiencing. Is the pain shooting? Is it more like an ache? Is it sharp or dull?

Shooting or sharp pains may indicate nerve or organ pain. In general, medication or other treatment is ideal for this type of pain.

Dull pain, aches, or inflammation, however, are well-suited for hot and cold therapy. The same goes for certain localized pain and some generic pain.

2. Differentiate Between Hot and Cold

Prior to implementing hot and cold therapy, understand how temperature engages with your body.

In general, cold temperatures constrict blood vessels.

This reduces inflammation, encourages muscle contraction, and provides pain relief. However, excessive exposure to cold temperatures can exacerbate muscle tension and spasticity.

Hot temperatures expand blood vessels. This promotes circulation, relieves muscle aches, and gives your body the nutrients it needs for healing.

Too much heat, however, can promote inflammation. Keep these distinctions in mind as you go about treating pain with hot and cold therapy.

3. Treat Localized Pain with Wraps or Packs

It's easiest to treat localized areas of pain with hot and cold wraps or packs. A bag of frozen vegetables, for example, is great for treating localized pain with cold therapy.

Heating packs or wraps, available at most drugstores, are ideal for targeting smaller areas of pain in the body. You can also use heated towels or rice sacks.

In general, treat any pain that is the result of inflammation with cold therapy first. After inflammation is reduced, use heat mindfully to alleviate muscle aches and pains and encourage healing.

Monitor your heating and cooling cycle according to your injury's needs. It is possible to spend a day treating your sprained ankle with ice, for example, and treating it the second day with heat.

Some injuries can benefit from alternating heat and cold applied in smaller increments. For example, one could treat a knee injury with 1 minute of cold, 3 minutes of heat, etc.

Always conclude any temperature session with a cold treatment. This helps reduce inflammation overall.

4. Engage in Immersive Therapy for Generic Pain

If you are suffering from more comprehensive pain, such as body aches or back pain, it's possible to implement immersive hot and cold therapy.

This may involve sitting in a sauna, for example, and then immersing certain body parts in an ice bath.

Because such therapy is so immersive, it's important to exercise caution and take your time. It may be ideal to acclimate between applications to discourage imbalances in blood pressure.

5. Stay Hydrated and Be Mindful

However, you choose to implement hot and cold therapy, be mindful as you do so. Stay hydrated if you engage in immersive therapy, as excessive exposure to extreme temperatures can easily dehydrate you.

Stretching muscles during heat sessions can help promote circulation and ease muscle spasticity. Listen to your body's needs and consult medical professionals if necessary.

Avoid hot and cold therapy if you have a fever, heart conditions, open wounds, neuropathy, or acute injuries.

Your Guide to Hot and Cold Therapy

Hot and cold therapy offers individuals a low-risk and cost-effective means of treating injuries and pain. If employed correctly, it can accelerate the healing process and provide effective, ongoing relief.

Before implementing temperature therapy, be sure that your injury or type of pain is appropriate for hot and cold treatment. Treat localized pain with wraps or packs and find relief for generic pain by pursuing immersive healing.

Be cautious when using hot and cold therapy. Always consult a physician if you have concerns.

Save Rite Medical is here to help you find the medical solutions you need on your budget. Have a question? We have answers!


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On to you

What questions do you have? Let us know in the comments below and we'll be happy to help!

-Marc Kaplan

CEO, Save Rite Medical


Created with a vision of helping customers in anyway possible, Save Rite Medical CEO, Marc Kaplan, created the company and has grown it to become the leading internet provider of medical supplies. Through valuable products to educational information, Save Rite Medical is your #1 resource for medical supplies.