Heat and cold therapy has been used and often recommended to relieve an aching pain that may result from an injury to the muscle or joint damage. Although it seems like a simple concept, the main question that many of us have before we go for one is when to reach for a heat gel pack and when to reach for a cold gel pack. There is still a lot of confusion surrounding the usage of hot and cold packs for inflammation, stiff muscles, joint pains, and other injuries. When is the right time to apply heat to those creaky joints? When is the right time to use a gel ice pack? Are there any conditions that strictly recommend the use of either method?
We know that you have got a lot of questions and queries, so we are putting together this useful step by step guide to help you out!
Heat and Cold Therapy
Both heat and cold therapy are inexpensive and easy-to-use treatments for the management of pain including- acute, chronic, and postoperative. Other than being used as pain relievers, these therapies are also great to use before and after a vigorous exercise to stimulate healing. In general, it is important to know the difference between acute and chronic injury. A new injury that is an acute injury will cause inflammation and swelling, so a gel ice pack would help reduce inflammation. While if the pain is recurring it should be treated with heat, using a heat therapy pack will help to stimulate blood flow to the area and promote healing. Knowing this simple fact can help if there’s ever a question about which one to choose between heat and cold therapy.
Do You Know, What Happens When You Get Injured?
When you get hurt from trauma, let's say, a sprain or a bad fall while playing, your brain will signal your body to flood that area with blood and plasma in order to get rid of the threat and bring back things to normal. This is the inflammatory response that our body signals and responds to the injury it suffers from. This part is how the body tries to naturally heal which can cause a lot of pain due to inflammation and swelling to the area.
When to Use Heat Therapy?
● The condition has become chronic, that is it has been consistent or recurring for weeks.
● You have got severe conditions like arthritis, muscle spasm, or stiff joints.
● Your injury has become old and there is no inflammation or swelling present.
When to Use Cold Therapy?
● The injury is acute, which is recent and has occurred 24-48 hours before.
● You have got bruises, bumps, pulled muscles, joint sprains, and fractures.
● You have got inflammation and redness present around the area. Signs of inflammation include redness, pain, warmth, tenderness, numbness, and loss of movement.
● Cold therapy packs can be used when you have just finished off the workout or any physical activity.
How to Apply Heat Gel Pack or Heat Therapy for Effective Results?
Heat therapy is most effective if the product bought are the ones that can easily maintain their heat and proper temperature. The preferable temperature should be warm enough to give relief and promote healing. If the source or heat therapy pack is too hot it can damage the skin tissue further aggravating the injury and burning the skin. The desired heat should be that much that can penetrate down into the muscles and decrease the discomfort.
In many instances, if the injury is old, the longer the heat is applied the better. Though the duration is determined on the basis type and magnitude of the injury. If you have very minor tension in your muscles, apply a heat pack for 15 to 20 minutes. If you have an intense injury, you can take longer sessions but at time intervals and 3-4 times a day.
For instance, you have got arthritis and always wake up with sore and stiff muscles in the morning. Then the gel packs would come handy, you can simply apply heat to the affected area to loosen those problematic muscles or joints.
Note that you should never use heat therapy when there is inflammation present. It could worsen the swelling drastically and also lengthen the recovery time.
How to Apply Cold Therapy Gel Packs to Deal with Inflammation and Pain-Causing that?
A simple application of an ice gel pack is the most effective way to cater to inflammation and pain relief by momentarily numbing the nerves around the area. That being said, it does not mean that it can be applied for long durations. The ice therapy can be applied to the area within 24-48 hours of the injury for no more than 20 minutes time to minimize the inflammation and can be applied several times a day to prevent the injury from getting worse.
Guidelines on How to Use Therapy Packs Properly
● Too much of a good can still be harmful, so remember to limit the application whether you are using heat or cold therapy.
● Don’t apply more than 15-20 minutes at a time.
● Make sure you have a barrier between your gel pack and your skin, direct contact can harm and cause potential tissue damage.