We all know that heating packs and cold compresses or ice packs can be tremendously useful when we sustain an injury. From the bumps and bruises of childhood to the body aches and pains as we get older, the benefits of temperature therapy are instilled in us throughout our lives. It’s such a simple method, but it works! Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know (and remember) when to use which method. What does the hot do that the cold cannot, and vice versa? When should I use them? And what types of injuries will it alleviate? Let’s analyze these and other questions a bit further.
Heat is best used when the affected area needs to relax. This includes muscles, tendons, and ligaments that have tightened or shortened. Heat can widen the blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the site of application. This will release tension and stiffness, helping the body to relax and stretch. You may also consider applying heat after a chiropractic adjustment to decrease the chance of stiffness and soreness later that day or the next day. It’s been found that humid heat is the best for this type of therapy, so access to a steam room, hot tub, or even a hot shower will greatly improve your results.
It’s important that the application is warm/hot, but be careful not to burn yourself! You should also never apply heat to inflammations, as that could make the injury worse.
Ice packs or cold compresses are best used on inflamed areas. The cool temperature will decrease blood flow to the site of inflammation, allowing your body time to recoup. Cold application can also slow the progression of any damage to that part of your body while keeping your pain level at a minimum. It’s not always necessary to apply ice directly to the skin, as that can be severely uncomfortable, even painful. As long as the cold can reach the body and is able to numb the site of inflammation, then you could use a washcloth or paper towel to wrap it.
Know Your Temperatures
Sometimes, aches and pains can benefit from a back-and-forth therapy: hot application, then cold application, then back again, until the pain subsides. If you’re experiencing back or neck pain not directly related to a recent severe injury, discuss it with your chiropractor. They would be glad to provide their professional opinion and help you find comfort. Looking for a chiropractor to call home? Contact Wirth Chiropractic and book an appointment today!