Ice vs. Heat – Which is Better for Pain?

workplaceHot and cold therapy is a natural, effective way to combat chronic pain. But which should you use for back pain, arthritis, or injuries such as strains and sprains?

Read on to learn when you should turn up the heat or cool it down.

Arthritis. Apply moist heat to stiff, tight joints to help relax muscles and ease pain.

Strains. If you’ve pulled a muscle, use ice to help ease inflammation, swelling and pain. Apply heat after stiffness is reduced.

Sprains. If you’ve torn a ligament in the knee, ankle, foot or elbow, use an icepack to numb the pain and ease inflammation. Heating pads can be used after to relieve stiffness.

Back and neck pain. Heat therapy is a great way to improve circulation and reduce muscle spasms for chronic, non-acute aches in the back or neck.

Headaches. If you’re suffering from a tension headache, heat therapy on the neck and back of the head can improve circulation and provide relief. Many migraine sufferers, however, opt for cold packs on the forehead and temples to help reduce pain.

A couple of things to remember:

If you use ice, make sure to cover it with a lightweight cloth so it’s not directly touching the skin, and stick to 15-20 minute applications. Cold therapy includes ice packs, gel packs, and cooling pads.

For heat therapy, remember to aim for warm, not hot, as high temperatures can damage skin and tissue, and may also induce muscle spasms. Heat therapy can include anything from warm baths and heating pads, to heated wraps and reusable gel packs, and it isn’t usually recommended for people with diabetes or peripheral vascular disease.

Posted on behalf of Sovereign Rehabilitation
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Sovereign Rehabilitation – Atlanta Physical Therapist
5555 Peachtree Dunwoody Rd, Suite 225
Atlanta, GA 30342
Phone: (404) 835-3340
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