For acute muscle soreness and joint pain caused by exercise, there are a number of potential remedies. Over-the-counter medications may provide some relief but also have unnecessary side effects. Some creams and ointments can also help alleviate pain in the short term. However, one therapy that has lasted through the ages is the use of hot or cold therapy, or ice or heat on a tired, sore, or injured area of the body. So which do you choose? How do you apply it? And what kind of results can you expect?
Cold therapy for pain
Cold therapy is best for injuries that have resulted in inflammation or swelling. Placing an icepack on the sore area will reduce the blood flow and, subsequently, the inflammation.
Cold or ice therapy slows down the blood flow from the injured area. It will help alleviate pain especially with an injury that has bruising or swelling. Ice can be applied to the injured area with the use of a frozen gel pack or regular ice from your freezer. Use this therapy for the first day or two after the injury has occurred. Apply the ice, wrapped in a light towel, to the injured area for 20 minutes with a 10 minute rest between applications. Repeat the process as necessary.
Heat therapy for pain
Heat therapy is most affective for pain that is reoccurring. It increases blood flow to the area that is experiencing the pain which promotes the body’s natural healing process. It is best for muscles or joints that feel stiff and sore.
Heat opens up the blood vessels which, in turn, increases circulation and brings relief to sore muscles or joints. It can also improve the range of motion for the affected areas. It can be applied as either dry or moist heat. Sources include hot water baths, hot water bottles, or microwavable heating pads or gel packs. The right temperature should be warm, not hot, and be maintained in a constant manner if possible. Wrap water bottles or heating pads in soft, thin cloth before applying it to the sore area. If the painful part of the body is swelling, start with ice therapy before transitioning to heat. Only apply the heat for 20 minute periods.
If hot or cold therapy doesn’t help to relieve your pain, consider reaching out to a pain doctor to discuss the pain you’re experiencing.
Does cold or hot therapy work for you when you’re experiencing pain or soreness?
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