Hot or Cold? The Benefits of heat and cold therapy.

Hot or Cold? The Benefits of heat and cold therapy.

Thermotherapy or cryotherapy, which is better to help relieve aching pains that are a result of muscle or joint damage?

Both hot and cold treatments have long been used to treat a range of muscle and joint issues and in some instances a combination of the two can be what is needed.

Heat therapy, or thermotherapy, can involve the use of hot water bottles, microwavable wheat bags or a warm bath while cold therapy can include the use of cold packs, a wheat bag cooled in the freezer and even a cold bath.

With cold treatments it is important to apply the cooled pack or wheat bag within 48 hours of an injury as the cold decreases the blood flow and slows the rate of inflammation.  The cold will numb sore tissue and so can also act as an anaesthetic.

Rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) are part of the standard treatment for sports injuries and a cold compress applied for 20 minutes every 4-6 hours for a few days will be very beneficial to many muscle and joint injuries.

Cold therapy can also help in cases of osteoarthritis, gout, strains and tendinitis plus a cold wrap around the forehead may help reduce migraine symptoms and pain. 

For chronic pain the use of heat treatment will promote the blood flow and allow the muscles to relax - alternating heat and cold will reduce exercise-induced muscle pain. 

Heat can also be useful for relieving osteoarthritis, strains and sprains, warming up muscles before activity and relieving pain relating to neck and back injuries.  A heat pack applied to the neck may reduce spasms that lead to headaches.

Finally it is important to remember to never use extreme heat and to never put ice directly on to the skin.



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