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Heat Therapy Vs Cold Therapy

Niharika Arya
Heat and cold therapies are very frequently used during injuries. Here under the topic heat therapy vs cold therapy we will discuss the effectiveness of both the treatments and when to use them.
Injuries are part of our life. We can't restrict our work just because we don't want to get hurt. We usually use heat therapy or cold therapy to cure our injury. But, when to use which therapy? This question is frequently asked by many people.
They usually make a comparison between heat therapy vs cold therapy or heat pack vs cold therapy or heat pad vs cold therapy. So, it's very important to understand the difference between these physical therapy options, their method of curing injuries and their area of effectiveness.

Heat Therapy

Heat therapy is among the oldest therapies. It is also known as thermotherapy which means heat cure in Greek. Heat therapy is advised when the person is suffering from chronic injury. Chronic injury can be a result of an unhealed acute injury which may be caused due to the lack of treatment. Heat therapy should not be applied if there is swelling or inflammation.
When heat therapy is applied to the affected area, four changes take place in the body tissue. It relieves the pain, helps in relaxing muscles, alters the blood vessels and there is a relaxation in the connective tissues. Heat increases the temperature of the body, this opens or enlarges the blood vessels and this results in excess blood flows through the affected part. This helps the injury to heal quickly as the blood carries healing fluids and a good amount of oxygen.
For heat therapy, you can go for a hot pack, warm water bath or wear a thick towel around the affected place and immerse the part into hot water. Heat wraps are also available in the market. Always avoid direct contact of the skin while taking the therapy to avoid the risk of burns. This therapy gives you relief from the muscle pain, increases the elasticity of the muscles and increases the blood flow. Don't use this therapy for more than 20 minutes. It is the easiest and the safest treatment.
When to Use Heat Therapy
  • You can use heat therapy in arthritis treatment as cold therapy can be harmful to you in such cases.
  • It is very effective in chronic pains.
  • In sprain, cramps, sore muscles and knotted muscles it can give you relief from the pain.
  • If you take heat therapy before the exercise or any other physical activity it will improve the movement and elasticity of the muscles.

Cold Therapy

Like heat therapy, cold pack therapy is also an old form of treatment. It is also known as cryotherapy which means cold cure in Greek. Cold therapy is usually given when the person is suffering from acute injury or we can say it is given immediately after the injury.
Whenever we get an injury a message is send to the brain and immediately the healing process of our body starts. Excess blood flows to the injured area to heal it with oxygen and nutrition. This results in swelling and inflammation. Cold therapy is best to cure such injuries.
When we apply cold therapy to the affected place the metabolism of the cells decreases with a decreased rate of blood circulation as the blood vessels reduce in size. This results in the decrease in swelling and pain. Cold therapy is very effective if immediately applied after injury.
You can take a cold therapy with a cold pack, ice packs, cold bath, etc. Don't take this therapy for more than 15 minutes. Avoid direct contact of ice cubes with the skin to minimizes the risk of cold burns.
When to Use Cold Therapy
  • Immediately after an acute injury to reduce swelling and muscle inflammation.
  • It is helpful after the workouts to minimize the inflammation and pain.
  • It should be used for 2 to 3 days after any acute injury.
  • Very helpful in spasm, sprains, knotted and pulled muscles.
Now, while using any of the therapies, acute and chronic injuries should be kept in mind. Both therapies help you to get rid of pain but right therapy at the right time will give you a quick relief.