Temperature-based therapy is hugely popular medium of therapy used for treating a wide range of bodily issues ranging from arthritis to inflammation and sprained/ strained muscles. Temperature based therapy is of two types: Heat therapy and Cold therapy. It is very easy to apply a heat pack or a disposable instant cold pack, but the real confusion lies in the fact that many of us have no idea when to use the heat pack and when to use the cold packs. Some treatments even call for both cold and heat packs, so knowing when to use which is important to make full use of this form of therapy and treatment.
In order to know which form of therapy to opt for, we have to know how each one works, starting with cold therapy. Also called cryotherapy, it contracts the blood vessels and thickens the blood in our body. This means the flow of blood to the applied area is reduced. As inflammations and swellings are caused by accumulated blood internally, applying cold gel packs help reduce these swellings and get it back to normal fast. Cold therapy also makes the skin numb by reducing nerve activity, helping in dealing with excess pain.
There are many types of cold therapy, divided mostly into personal and professional cold therapy. Unlike heat therapy, cold therapy can be easily done at home or outside without professional help, thanks to readily available instant ice packs. These ice packs are disposable and single use, but can be quickly used in case of injury unlike refrigerated ice packs that need to be prepared in advance.
There are many ways to perform cryotherapy, such as ice packs, instant gel packs, ice massage, ice baths and coolant sprays. Different types of injuries call for different types of treatment. Frozen gel packs and ice packs come in many customized versions that can be applied to individual areas on the body, whereas ice massage, ice baths and cold therapy chambers are used for whole body cold treatment.
Just as with other forms of personal therapy treatments, proper care and precautions need to be taken before attempting to use any form of cold therapy. People with certain sensory disorders, especially those who cannot properly feel the cold sensation, should avoid doing it on their own because they might not realize if the cold is excess or not. Cold can damage the skin if used for extended period of time, hence there should be a gap between successive applications. If using ice, bare ice should not be brought in contact with the skin, and should be wrapped in something like a protective covering or towel. Some reusable hot/cold gel packs come with protective covers and wraps that regulate temperature and protect your skin from damage (Hyperlink our Multipurpose therapy gel with cover). Not more than 20 minutes of application is recommended to prevent permanent nerve and tissue damage. Remove it as soon as the swelling is gone.
When we use a heated pack, blood vessels inside our body expand and make the blood slightly thinner. This improves the blood circulation, which in turn increases the flow of blood to a particular area, usually the injured area. Heat therapy is further divided into two types: Dry heat therapy and Wet heat therapy.
Dry heat therapy makes use of heating pads, dry heated gel packs(Hyperlink), and saunas. They work by applying heat directly to the affected area from the source of heat. Heat therapy involves hot baths, steamed towels and steamed heat packs. In this case, heat is conducted to the affected area from the source using moisture and air.
Heat therapy is beneficial for cold muscles or damaged or torn internal tissues, as they can help heal those faster than conventional healing methods. Heat therapy is often used by professional therapists, and it is important to follow the protocol in order to prevent serious burns or injuries when using it at home. One can buy heating pads or heated body wraps that treat a specific area, or opt for full body treatment using saunas and hot baths. Heated gel packs can also be purchased with fitted covers that protect your skin from damage.
Heat treatment can be used for extended duration of time, provided that the heat is not too much and only moderate. Proper precautions should be followed to be on the safe side and prevent possible issues. Heat treatment should be strictly avoided in case of swellings, open wounds or cuts in the skin. Plus, people with diabetes, dermatitis, vascular diseases, and thrombosis should consult a doctor before opting for any sort of heat treatment.