So you hurt yourself and you’re wondering if you should use hot and cold therapy for pain… You may be asking yourself which is better? Should one come before the other? How is this going to help me?
Hot and cold therapies have many advantages that benefit the healing process and may compliment your adjustments from the chiropractor. But it’s important to know when to use each therapy for the best results.
When to use hot and cold therapy properly.
Using heat as therapy is soothing as it relaxes stiff and tense muscles and joints by increasing blood flow, improving circulation around the area and increasing range of motion. Heat is often recommended for tight, sore, achy muscles, chronic injuries and arthritis, apply for 10-20 minutes, be careful not to burn skin. It’s usually best to have a towel between heating pad and skin.
There are many ways to use hot therapy effectively. Some of your options include:
- Hot water bottle
- Heated gel pack
- Sauna session
- Hot bath
- Steamed shower
- Heating pad
For acute pain, such as in a recent injury, sprain or strain, you should skip heat therapy and begin with ice. This is most important right after an injury occurs, when the pain is sharp, and swelling and inflammation is present. The ice restricts blood vessels, reducing the amount of blood and inflammation in an area. Ice works great at numbing and relieving pain.
To use cold therapy, do not put ice directly on skin, it’s best to use a paper towel or cloth between the ice and skin to avoid skin damage. Ice affected area for about 20 minutes with any of these options:
- Gel pack
- Ice pack
- Frozen vegetable pack from the freezer
Combining Hot and Cold Therapy For Best Results
Following an adjustment in our office, Dr. Clark usually recommends applying ice to affected area. Sometimes with more chronic injuries such as arthritis, aches or pains, we recommend using heat, then complete your stretches at a comfortable level and follow with ice to minimize any inflammation in your symptomatic region. This practice is Dr. Clark’s preferred general use of hot and cold therapy, for best use for your specific condition, ask him if you need modifications to these instructions based on your health history.
We often send patients home with an ice pack after their first couple visits to aid their recovery.