Note that this is not intended as medical advice, so to be sure you can always cross-check with your physician before beginning any treatment for pain, muscle sprain, or discomfort. The foregoing are some suggestions that can help you eliminate those problems. Also before adopting any new treatment in your regime, it is important that you read all the instructions, warnings, do’s, and don’ts.
What is Contrast Therapy?
This technique involves changing the tissue temperature quickly from hot to cold and back again. This can be usually achieved by alternating between hot and cold compress or therapy pack or simply using hot and cold water, either using it on the affected area or something immersing the whole body. Most of the time, this technique is followed by athletes for faster recovery and to get back to the game quickly.
This is a very simple, affordable, and low-risk treatment that involves alternating applications of heat and cold to relieve the pain associated with injury or relieve stress and overexertion caused by exercising.
This therapy can be performed at the ease of your home, you will simply require therapy gel packs that will provide you rapid and natural pain relief for all sorts of aches and pains.
The Art of Alternating Between Hot and Cold Therapy or Compress:
Basic thermotherapy involves the use of heat therapy packs that can be heated in the microwave to increase circulation to the body part. But when is heat the right option? We have listed some instances in which heat is used:
● Heat therapy is typically used for old injuries or nagging injuries that cause you consistent pain and a dull ache. For instance, you pulled a muscle but left it untreated and you are now experiencing discomfort to the same area, in this case, heat therapy could be your answer.
● Most of the time when the injury is new you would feel a throbbing pain and if you describe your pain as soreness or a dull ache, heat compress is an excellent option to bring relief. For instance, people with constant joint pain or arthritis may find relief with heat treatment.
● If you are experiencing stiffness in muscles or ongoing muscle pain then as well heat therapy can help. For instance, if you sit for long hours and you have pain in your lower back then you can treat it with heat.
Cold therapy also known as cryotherapy, helps to reduce the blood flow to the area while decreasing inflammation and swelling. But what type of injuries can be treated with cold therapy? Here are some of them listed below:
● Muscle spasm
● Blood flow or bruises
When you get injured, it is natural that the area becomes red and inflamed as the blood flows to that area. Cold therapy can help with the injuries that involve swelling of the tissue and blood vessels.
How to Alternate Between Heat and Cold Therapy?
Clearly, in some cases alternating hot and cold compress can be beneficial for recovering from injury in terms of pain relief and healing. Sometimes, the tissues adapt to the temperature and may not respond well to one treatment, and simply choosing only cold or heat treatment won’t be enough to provide relief, which is where alternating between heat and cold works the best.
The point of alternating between the treatment is to basically force your tissues to adapt to sudden changes, which can result in being helpful for the body part that badly needs rest while it is also healing.
This method is generally used in overuse injuries. Where you should first apply heat to the affected area before you plan to do any physical movement and then use ice after the activity to prevent inflammation, stimulate circulation, also loosening tight muscles and thereby easing pain.
For instance, an alternating hot and cold compress is used by athletes to relax and stretch muscles before the workout as heat therapy and cold therapy after training to lower inflammation and pain. This will help you with recovery by reducing the levels of lactic acid and muscle soreness.
Here is a brief guide on how you can alternate between heat and cold treatment to get the best result:
● Begin with 1 minute of cold therapy.
● Then switch to 3 to 4 minutes of heat therapy.
● You can repeat this same transition between hot and cold therapy approximately three times in a session.
● It can be carried out one or two times a day until the injury is healed.
Note that, it is important that you always begin and end the alternate session with cold therapy or compress to suppress the inflammation and swelling. Therapy gel packs can work best on the principle of contrast hot and cold therapy. They will help you to first cool down the injury so that if there is any pain it can minimize and then you can switch to apply heat to relax the muscles.
Do’s for Alternating Therapy or in General for Heat and Cold Therapy:
● It is important that every time you use the therapy or compress there is a barrier between your skin and the gel pack. You can use a cover along with it, or simply a towel or cloth. This will help to prevent your skin from burning and prevent tissue damage.
● Once you start, keep the intensity low and then you can transition to increase it with every session. You can use the therapy gel packs depending on the level of your comfort.
● Stretching is very important when alternating between therapies to increase the flexibility of the injured area and range of motion.
● Make sure heat is applied generously and consistently for 3-4 minutes to the injured area.
● As mentioned above, always finish with cold therapy to help with inflammation and swelling.
● Consider using therapy packs to avoid any discomfort.
Don’ts for Alternating Therapy:
● If you suffer from a sensory disorder or your skin gets numb with the application of hot or cold therapy, you should not go for alternating therapy.
● Acute injuries are not meant to be treated with contrast therapy or alternating hot and cold compress. As these injuries are best to treat with cold or ice therapy, once there are no signs of inflammation contrast therapy can be used.
● Don’t use contrast therapy on open cuts or wounds as it can increase the risk of infection.