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Cold (or iced) therapy is one of the simplest, safest, and most effective self-care techniques for post workout therapy or to treat pain or discomfort in muscles and joints. Cold will decrease muscle spasms, pain, and inflammation of bone and soft tissue. You can use cold initially on the site of discomfort, pain, or injury. You can also apply cold in later stages for rehabilitating injuries or easing chronic problems.
Four stages of cold therapy
When you apply cold therapy, you’ll feel four distinct sensations. Immediately after applying, you’ll feel the cold, then you’ll feel a burning/prickling sensation in the iced area. Next, you’ll feel an aching, which can sometimes hurt more than the initial pain. Eventually, and most importantly, the iced area will feel numb. As soon as you feel numbness, remove the cold therapy. You should apply cold therapy for not longer than 20 to 30 minutes at a time. Before you reapply cold therapy, let your skin return to a normal temperature or back to the aching feeling.
How does cold therapy work?
Cold initially constricts local blood vessels and decreases tissue temperature. This decreases blood flow and cell metabolism, which can limit hemorrhage and cell death in an acute traumatic injury. After about 20 minutes of cold therapy, blood vessels in the injured area slowly dilate (open), increasing the tissue temperature.
When should you use cold therapy?
For the greatest benefit, use cold therapy after exercise, not before. Studies have shown that cooling a body part prior to athletic performance is probably not a good idea, as the cold may alter joint position, increasing risk of injury.
To most effectively use cold therapy, apply a cold or frozen Caldera Gel Pack to the problem area. You can hold it in place with a Caldera Therapy Wrap.
Can I use cold therapy as a precaution?
You can use a chilled or frozen Caldera Gel Pack immediately following any workout, or when you feel any discomfort or injury. If the swelling or pain doesn’t decrease within 24 to 48 hours, you should consult your doctor.
Is cold therapy safe?
Cold therapy is very safe when used within the recommended application time. Don’t apply cold therapy if you have any of the following conditions: rheumatoid arthritis, Reynaud’s Syndrome, allergies, paralysis, or areas of impaired sensation (nerve damage).back to top
Heat therapy opens blood vessels and increases blood flow, which helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to muscles and tissues. It also relaxes the muscles and helps reduce pain in the affected area.
Heat therapy is generally applied as a Caldera Gel Pack, a compress like a Caldera Therapy Wrap, a sauna, a shower or a bath. When you use heat therapy, always exercise caution and make sure the temperature is comfortable. Don’t use heat therapy over open wounds or stitches or if you have poor circulation. Heat treatment should not last more than thirty minutes.
Benefits of heat therapy for lower back pain:
While warmth and heat have long been associated with comfort and relaxation, heat therapy can also provide pain relief and healing benefits for many types of lower back pain.
And heat therapy offers several other significant benefits—it’s inexpensive and can be done at home while relaxing. Caldera’s Therapy Wraps even make it possible to apply heat therapy while in the car or at work.
How heat therapy works:
Lower back pain due to strains and over-exertion creates tension in the muscles and soft tissues around the lower spine. This restricts proper circulation and sends pain signals to the brain. Muscle spasm in the lower back can create sensations ranging from mild discomfort to excruciating pain. Heat therapy can help relieve pain from the muscle spasm and related tightness in the lower back.
Applying heat therapy can help provide lower back pain relief in several ways:
- it dilates blood vessels of the muscles surrounding the lumbar spine. This increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, helping heal the damaged tissue;
- it stimulates the sensory receptors in the skin, so applying heat to the lower back will decrease transmission of pain signals to the brain and partially relieve discomfort; and,
- it helps stretch the soft tissues around the spine, including muscles, connective tissue and adhesions. Consequently, there will be a decrease in stiffness and injury, and an increase in flexibility and overall feeling of comfort. Flexibility is very important for a healthy back.
For many people, heat therapy works best when combined with other treatments like physical therapy and exercise.back to top
Exercise is good for your health, but can also raise your risk of sprained joints and muscles and other minor injuries. You can reduce your recovery time if you care for injuries in the first day or two after an injury happens. If you suffer a strain, sprain, pull, tear or other muscle or joint injury, treat it with the R.I.C.E. method: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. This routine can relieve pain, limit swelling, protect the injured tissue, and will help speed healing.
The R.I.C.E. method for acute injury treatment includes:
- REST—it's important to rest after injury for two reasons. First, rest is vital to protect the injured muscle, tendon, ligament or other tissue from further injury. Second, the rest will help your body have the energy it needs to heal itself most effectively.
- ICE—use frozen or cold Caldera Gel Packs on the injured area. The cold can provide short-term pain relief, and limits swelling by reducing blood flow to the injured area. Apply the cold Gel Pack for 20 minutes and then take it off for 20 minutes. Repeat as necessary.
- COMPRESSION—use a Caldera Therapy Wrap to compress the injured area. This can provide relief from pain. If you feel throbbing or if the wrap feels too tight, loosen the wrap.
- ELEVATION—elevate the injured area to help reduce swelling. Raise the injured area above the heart for maximum effectiveness. For example, if you injure an ankle, try lying on your bed with your foot propped on one or two pillows.
After a day or two of R.I.C.E., many sprains, strains or other injuries will begin to heal. However, if your pain or swelling doesn't decrease after 48 hours see your doctor or go to an emergency room if the symptoms are very severe.
Once your injury starts healing, you can lightly massage the area to cut the healing time, and potentially reduce scarring and the possibility the injury will happen again. Once the swelling is gone, you can also begin gentle stretching of the area. Try to work the entire range of motion of the injured joint or muscle, but don't force a stretch-you'll risk reinjures. Keep in mind that a stretch should never cause pain. Also, at this point you may want to apply heat to the area-simply heat up and apply your Caldera Gel Pack. Finally, after the injury has fully healed, you can begin strengthening exercises. Start with easy weights and don't continue if you feel pain.back to top
Gel Packs FAQs
Can I place a therapy gel pack on my bare skin?
NEVER put a hot or cold Therapy Gel Pack directly on the skin. ALWAYS use a protective barrier such as a coordinating Caldera Therapy Wrap. In the event that you do not have a wrap, use a towel or a cloth as a barrier to avoid heat or cold burns
I accidentally ate some therapy gel from my gel pack, should I be worried?
Our gel is made of food grade, non-toxic material but is not designed to be ingested. First Aid is generally not required, and ingestion is not thought to be a cause for concern, but we recommend you contact your doctor who will be more familiar with your personal medical history, especially if you have pre-existing organ damage or experience adverse symptoms.
My therapy gel pack has been punctured can I fix it?
No, please discard your pack if it breaks.
How long should I freeze my therapy gel pack?
We recommend freezing your Therapy Gel packs overnight. You can leave them in the freezer indefinitely.
My microwave is not heating my gel pack evenly, what should I do?
Even microwaves with the same power often heat differently, and sometimes unevenly. We always recommend that you test the temperature before you remove it from the microwave, and if it seems to be unevenly heated, knead it to spread the heat.
How long will my gel pack stay hot or cold?
Our Therapy Gel Packs were designed to stay hot or cold and deliver a therapeutically effective temperature for a medically recommended time of 20 minutes. If you plan to re-apply the product, be sure to take a 20-minute break between uses. Some of our customers have told us they prefer to use the packs chilled in the refrigerator rather than the freezer. Consult with your doctor if you are unsure about what will work best for you.
How do I clean my therapy gel pack?
Clean your Therapy Gel Pack gently with mild soap, alcohol, or detergent and let stand for 1 minute.
If my therapy gel pack is too hot will it burn me?
Always test Therapy Gel Pack temperature prior to application, especially when using on children. The temperature should be warm to the touch, but not hot, and never painful. Heating recommendations provided by Caldera International, Inc. are guidelines and are based on testing in standard household microwaves. Power output will vary in each microwave. Uneven heating may occur, so be careful, the temperature may vary in different locations in/on your gel pack. To be on the safe side, give your pack a gentle shake when it comes out of the microwave to help ensure heat is evenly distributed. Do not fall asleep using pack.
Can I overheat my therapy gel pack?
Overheating or prolonged application may cause injury, including burns. Heating beyond the suggested time may damage or destroy your Therapy Gel Pack. If you heat the Therapy Gel Pack beyond our recommended time, the Therapy Gel can get very hot and could burn you very quickly. It is normal for Therapy Gel Packs to expand a little when heated for the recommended time. If you accidentally heat your Therapy Gel Pack beyond the recommended time and see it inflating like a balloon, immediately turn off your microwave, wait for the pack to cool down, and then carefully dispose of your pack. When in doubt, or if your pack shows any signs of deforming, dispose of it – a gel pack that has been overheated should never be reused. Our Therapy Gel Packs will explode like a popped balloon if heated for an excessive amount of time.
Can I place my therapy gel pack directly in the microwave from the freezer?
No, it is recommended that you bring the bag to room temperature first since heating times are based on room temperature. If you will be frequently switching from one extreme to the other, it may be a good idea to have an extra gel bag on hand when needed.
Can my children use my therapy gel pack?
Our gel packs should only be used under adult supervision. Our gel is non-toxic, but should not be ingested. Children may have more sensitive skin than adults, so we recommend that adults pay extra attention when using our products on children.
The therapy gel pack broke open and it is leaking, how do I clean it?
While the gel materials used are non-toxic and will not harm your furniture or carpet the food grad blue dye can stain. If you need to clean the gel off your furniture or carpet, let it get dry and flaky and you should be able to vacuum it up. The gel material is also water-soluble.
- Scrape off the excess gel pack liquid from the upholstery with a plastic spoon. Discard the gel and spoon in the trash.
- Mix four cups of cool water with one scoop of an oxygen cleaning powder until completely dissolved.
- Submerge a white cloth in the mixture and wring out the excess liquid. You want the cloth to be damp but not soggy.
- Blot the gel pack stain with the upholstery. Blot at the edge of the stain and move toward the middle. Repeat this process until you have removed all signs of the gel pack stain.
- Rinse the auto upholstery by patting with a clean cloth dampened with cool water. Allow the upholstery to air dry.
How often should I replace my therapy gel pack?
Our gel packs are very hard-wearing and retain their hot and cold capabilities long after you have recovered from your injury. They are designed to be used over and over!
How long should my therapy gel pack be placed in a freezer to become fully frozen?
It is our recommendation that Therapy Gel Packs be kept in the freezer for at least 8 hours to be fully effective.
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Directions for Hot Therapy Use:
- If Therapy Gel Pack has been in freezer, remove and let it thaw to room temperature before proceeding
- Lay Therapy Gel Pack flat in microwave.
- Heat at full power for recommended time as stated on gel pack.
- Remove from microwave and check for desired temperature. Temperature will continue to rise slightly. If additional heat is desired, return to microwave and heat in 30-sec increments.
- Place Therapy Gel Pack inside Caldera Therapy Wrap or towel and apply to injured area.
DO NOT heat Therapy Gel pack for more than recommended time. Excessive heating may cause Therapy Gel pack to rupture, leak, and cause bodily harm.
Directions for Cold Therapy Use:
- Place Therapy Gel pack in your freezer for at least 1 hour
- Remove Therapy Gel pack from your freezer and place inside a Caldera Therapy Wrap or towel; then apply to the injured area.
- Watch the Therapy Gel pack while heating. If the Gel Pack starts to expand, turn off microwave
- DO NOT apply the Therapy Gel Pack directly to the skin
- The Therapy Gel pack must be inside a Caldera Therapy Wrap or towel before applying to the injured area
- Use only as directed
- Individuals with circulatory problems should consult a physician before using
- This product is non-toxic; however, it is not intended to be eaten
- If Therapy Gel pack becomes uncomfortable (too hot or too cold) remove for a few minutes and reapply
- If gel contacts eyes or skin, redness or irritation persists, consult a physician