HOT OR COLD FOR PAIN: Should You Use Ice Or Heat For Pain

It’s hard to get through life without straining a muscle, spraining a ligament, suffering a headache or wrenching your back. And the longer you’re on the planet, the more susceptible you are to arthritis. When something hurts, will ice or heat make it feel better? There is too much confusion about this issue. Two of the simplest treatments that can use to help you to manage pain are ice therapy and heat therapy. Generally, you use these in forms of hot packs or cold packs.

Ø The rule of thumb with cold is if an area is red, swollen, inflamed, or if it’s an acute injury, meaning an injury that just occurred, we want to cool the area down and prevent any inflammation. It’s generally a topical anti-inflammatory that you are putting on the skin or body part — wherever the injury occurred. It reduces swelling around the injury, bleeding into the tissue, muscle spasms and pain.

Ø Heat treatments are used for reducing discomfort caused by chronic ailments. It works by loosening the tissues and improving blood circulation to the affected area of the body or a portion of your arm or leg for It not only helps in increasing blood flow or circulation, but also increases tissue elasticity or flexibility.

Ø You can use heat or cold in alteration. Alternating between applications of ice and heat is called contrasting therapy. It’s extremely stimulating and is mostly used to facilitate injury recovery.

We have compiled a list of the 7 most common forms of pain and which treatment would be ideal for them, heat or ice.

For chronic back pain, you may think that taking a warm bath would be comforting. But that just leads to inflammation. Instead, you must opt for an ice-pack. Experts say that applying an ice pack on the affected area for two to three days can reduce inflammation and pain. However, if you are dealing with chronic back pain, a heating pad would be a better treatment.

Menstrual pains can be anything from mild to severe. Medication is not recommended for them. But there is one way of relaxing the muscles of your uterus and improving blood flow in that area, application of a heating pad. You could also try taking a warm water bath for relief.

Before you proceed to involve in rigorous workout, you must heat up your knees and elbows. This is because the joints need to warm up before starting any form of severe workout. However, if you experience pain post-workout, you must go for an ice treatment. Do this right after workout but not for more than 20 minutes. Using a heat treatment can lead to muscles soreness and even swelling.

This one is pretty common. Typically, people recommend a heat treatment when your sprain an ankle. But here’s an eye-opener, heating treatment for sprains worsen inflammation. However, an ice treatment reduces the swelling and inflammation and control the discomfort by numbing the affected area.

So which one would be more effective for arthritis, heat, ice or both?

In case of arthritis, you can alternate both treatments. Heat can help in loosening the muscles and in improving blood flow to the affected area. Ice, on the other hand, can help in reducing inflammation and numbing the affected area. Heat wins for arthritis and injuries that linger more than six weeks. Patients with more chronic osteoarthritis usually feel better with heat. But for acute gout flares with heat, here ice is a favorable option. To begin with, you can try alternating both the treatments and over time figure out what combination of the two works best for you.

For a torn ligament, use ice treatment not heat. You can apply an ice pack or go for an ice bath for fifteen minutes after every two to three hours for the first 36 hours. Ice helps in limiting blood flow to the injured area thereby controlling swelling and inflammation. Using heat during this stage can worsen swelling.

Vascular headaches, including migraines, do better with cold. Cold masks or wraps over the forehead, eyes and temples helps in the throbbing pain of a migraine. On the other hand, a tension headache may benefit from applying heat to tight muscles in the neck or jaw. Heat wraps can halt neck spasms that contribute to headache.


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