PAIN is the primary reason why you are running for an ice pack or reaching for the heating pad. But which will actually help you alleviate or relieve your discomfort? To answer this question we first need to analyze your symptoms:
When to use cold:
The primary reason to use cold therapy is when your body is suffering from an injury! Cold therapy will slow down blood circulation and reduce inflammation. This includes bruises, and sprains. Some tips you should be aware of:
Apply cold in 20 minute intervals with 10 minute breaks in between
For injuries; apply cold consistently for 24-48 hours
Don’t apply directly to the skin. Just like heat, cold can cause damage to the layers of your skin. Wrap gel or ice packs in a thin towel to act as a barrier.
When to use heat:
Heat can be applied through many different methods such as electric heating pads, microwaveable clay pads, hot water bottles, gel packs, or hot water baths. All of these apply dry or moist heat to the body to alleviate pain. If you are feeling discomfort you will want to USE HEAT to treat chronic muscle pain, or chronic joint pain. Heat should NOT be used on an injury for at least 72 hours. Another ailment that benefits from the application of heat are stiff joints. If this is what you are experience try to apply heat. Remember moist heat is BEST to use over dry heat. NOTE: Never apply heating methods like electric heating pads, gel packs or microwaveable clay pads directly to the skin. This could cause burning. Make sure to wrap the heating devices in a thin towel.