Hot and Cold Therapy - When should I use Hot and Cold Therapy?
The following article on hot and cold therapy is offered as a guideline. As a general rule, in the case of injury, heat therapy should not be used for the first 48 hours as this will have the opposite effect of cold therapy, instead apply R.I.C.E. Heat increases blood flow and relaxes muscles. Its good for easing tight muscles, but will only increase the pain and swelling in the first 48 hours after injury by accelerating metabolism. Always consult your doctor or physician in the event of serious acute injury or when using heat therapy for a medical condition.
Heat or Moist Heat Therapy should be used for chronic conditions such as muscle discomfort, stiffness and many other chronic conditions. An example would be, for some people, nothing soothes a sore back like a hot pack. In a 2002 study published in the journal Spine, investigators at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey found that the continuous application of low level heat eased low back pain better than two common over-the-counter painkillers.
Heat therapy can also be used before exercise to increase the flexibility of joints and to increase blood flow. You should not use heat therapy after exercise. Because heat therapy increases circulation and increases the skin temperature, it should not be used when there is any swelling or inflammation. See our microwaveable moist heat wraps.
How should you use heat therapy?
The best way to apply heat therapy is via one of the wraps on this site suitable for your body part. Alternate 20 minutes of heat therapy followed by a 20 minute break. Repeat this process for 3-4 times daily until stiffness and soreness decreases. It is important when using heat therapeutically, to always have enough barrier between the skin surface and the heat pack to protect the skin, the wraps on this site supply that barrier.
What is the difference between dry heat and moist heat therapy?
Moist heat and dry heat are the most common therapeutic treatments for superficial heat therapy. Moist heat therapy is more effective than dry heat therapy in providing deeper penetration of the tissue at the same temperatures. Moist heat also has additional capacity to change the tissue temperature rapidly and obtain more vigorous response from temperature receptors. Patients often report greater relief of symptoms from moist heat.
Comparing moist and dry heat therapy indicates that the advantages of moist heat over dry heat are:
- Moist heat is more effective than dry heat in deeper tissue heating
- Moist heat penetrates more than dry heat at the same temperature
- Patients often report greater relief of symptoms from moist heat
- Moist heat is preferred over dry heat as a treatment or component of the treatment for the following conditions:
- Pain, stiffness and secondary muscle spasm in chronic arthritis
- Acute temporomandibular joint closed lock condition
- Pain and muscle spasm on posterior neck and back in patients with ankylosing spondolytis
- Moist heat has the additional capacity to change the tissue temperature rapidly and obtain a more vigorous response from temperature receptors
How is heat therapy administered?
The hot cold therapy wraps on this site come in two forms. The first are for applying heat therapy or cold therapy. A unique non toxic re-usable gel pack(s) are included with the wraps. To apply heat therapy simply pop them in the microwave for thirty seconds on the lowest setting before inserting them into the pockets on the wrap. The wrap can then be positioned on the body part with the velcro attachments provided. The microwaveable gel packs also double as a soft ice pack. Simply pop them in the freezer before inserting them in the wrap to apply cold therapy. The soft ice gel packs are designed to remain supple when frozen to fit the contour of the body part.
The moist heat therapy wraps are simply placed in a clean microwave on the lowest setting for deep penetrating, natural, moist heat. Use for temporary relief from arthritis and rheumatic pain, muscle strains & spasms, carpal tunnel, headaches, migraines and more! Moist Heat is a commonly prescribed therapy for relief of various aches and pains by providing natural, deep penetrating moist heat. All wraps include elastic and Velcro belts to hold them comfortably on the body. Therapeutic no odor, non organic beads within the wrap hold moisture collected from humidity in the air. No water needs to be added!
What precautions should you take when using hot or cold therapy?
Hot or cold therapy should not be used on people who have circulatory problems, who are unconscious, who cannot feel or respond to cold (e.g. in paralysis) or who are allergic to cold (some people develop skin reactions). Use extra caution if diabetic.
Take care when using a heat pack if you are taking medicines that make you sleepy or if the area being treated is numb.
Limit the heat therapy to ten or fifteen minutes at a time. Try ten minutes every one to two hours.
Wait at least twenty-four hours before applying heat to skin that has been bruised, cut or used for an injection or subjected to any "invasive" procedure. NOTE: Heat can increase bleeding.
Important: If the area is sore from overuse or inflamed, use Cold, NOT Heat! Caution
Hot or cold therapy should not be used on people who have circulatory problems, who are unconscious, who cannot feel or respond to cold (e.g. in paralysis) or who are allergic to cold (some people develop skin reactions). Applying cold therapy for too long can cause problems and delay the healing process. Always apply cold therapy in a safe and controlled manner. Never apply cold therapy if you have a sensation loss. Always consult with your physician in the event of a serious injury or whenever using cold or hot therapy for a medical condition.
What medical conditions is heat therapy currently used for?
- Muscle spasms
- Insect bites
- Headaches and Migraines
- Hematoma (acute)
- Post Surgery
- Myofascial disorders- muscle spasm, muscle tension, muscle soreness
The information provided in this article on cold therapy (crynotherapy) is intended as a guideline, always consult your doctor or physician in the event of a serious injury or when using hot and cold therapy products for your particular condition. Most therapists advise not to use heat therapy imediately after an injury.
Heat increases blood flow and relaxes muscles. Heat therapy is excellent for easing tight muscles, but in the case of an injury will only increase pain and swelling. Using cold therapy (crynotherapy) to treat injuries is one of the oldest methods of pain control.
Cold therapy is an easy self care technique that is proven to be safe and effective at reducing swelling, relieving pain and decreasing muscle spasms. Often people who use cold therapy require much less pain relief medication.
Cold Therapy - R.I.C.E.
R.I.C.E. stands for rest, ice, compression, elevation, the four basic methods of pain relief and a speedy recovery.
Rest is important immediately after an injury for two reasons:
First, rest is vital to protect the injured muscle, tendon, ligament or other tissue from further injury.
Second, your body needs to rest so it has the energy it needs to heal itself most effectively.
Cold therapy will help reducing swelling, bleeding, spasms and pain.
Apply as soon as possible after an injury has occurred and continue for 48 to 72 hrs. Most doctors recommend 20 minutes of cold therapy followed by 20 to 60 minutes off.
Compression should be continued throughout the day and removed at night.
If possible, elevating the injured area above the heart helps reduce internal bleeding and swelling.
Hot and Cold Therapy Wraps
The compression wraps which include the soft ice packs on this site provide a comfortable, convenient and effective method of administering R.I.C.E. The soft Ice packs stay soft and flexible even right out of the freezer providing greater contact, heat transfer and comfort than ice or cheaper cold packs.
After 24 to 48 hours of applying R.I.C.E., many injuries will begin to heal. If your pain or swelling does not decrease after 48 hours, return to your doctor or hospital, depending upon the severity of your symptoms.
Once the healing process has begun, very light massage may improve the function of forming scar tissue, cut healing time and reduce the possibility of injury re occurrence.
What conditions can benefit from cold therapy?
Sprains - Strains -Contusions - Arthritis- Muscle spasms - Whiplash - Headaches and Migraines - Insect bites - Dislocation - Subluxations - Hematoma (acute) - Bursitis - Tendonitis - Post Surgery - Myofascial disorders - muscle spasm - muscle tension - muscle soreness
How should cold therapy wraps be used?
The compression wraps help protect from freezer burn or frostbite. The soft ice packs that remain flexible when frozen are inserted into the pockets on the wraps. As a guideline apply the wrap for twenty minute intervals, followed by 20 to 60 min off. (See your doctor for exact recommendations) This will help to relieve pain, reduce swelling, and increase circulation. The skin temperature should always be allowed to return to normal between applications.
How does cold therapy work?
After an injury, blood vessels that deliver oxygen and nutrients to cells are damaged. The cells around the injury increase their metabolism in an effort to consume more oxygen. When all of the oxygen is used up, the cells die. Also, the damaged blood vessels cannot remove waste. Blood cells and fluid seep into spaces around the muscle, resulting in swelling and bruising.
When ice is applied, it lowers the temperature of the damaged tissue through heat exchange and constricts local blood vessels. This slows metabolism and the consumption of oxygen, therefore reducing the rate of cell damage and decreasing fluid build-up. Ice can also numb nerve endings. This stops the transfer of impulses to the brain that register as pain.
Cold or ice should never to applied directly to the skin. The cold therapy wraps act as a barrier between the soft ice pack and the skin. Ice therapy requires that as much heat is drawn from the effected area within the first twenty minutes as possible.
How long will the soft ice packs last?
Soft-Ice is non-toxic and is designed to transfer heat with no chemical reactions. The pack can be reused over and over again and will last a long time.
Why not just use an ice bag or a bag of peas to apply cold therapy?
Both ice bags and frozen peas can be messy and they freeze hard. These do not allow full contact with the skin resulting in poor heat transfer and uncomfortable therapy and may cause frostbite or freezer burn making the injury worse. When you are in serious pain, you want a quick, clean solution that is reusable and will provide you consistent relief of your pain!
What precautions should you take when using cold therapy?
Hot or cold therapy (crynotherapy) should not be used on people who have circulatory problems, who are unconscious, who cannot feel or respond to cold (e.g. in paralysis) or who are allergic to cold (some people develop skin reactions). Never apply ice if you have a sensation loss. Always consult with your physician in the event of a serious injury or whenever using cold or hot therapy for a medical condition.