We know that heat therapy has a ton of benefits for the body and so does cold/ice therapy. However, what even is the difference and how would you know which type of therapy is the best for your given conditions?
When to Utilize Cold Therapy
Most commonly used when the injury is recent. When you sprain an ankle, the automatic instinct is to ice it. Likewise when you fall down, ice is usually the immediate answer. It tones the inflamed area down a bit and to decrease any potential swelling. The pain is also reduced as the ice essentially numbs the injured area.
When to Utilize Heat Therapy
When injuries are more chronic such as muscle spasms, tension or pain, that’s when heat therapy is used. Like cold therapy, it is also pain relieving but it’s different in the sense that it will relax the muscle.
What Happens When I Use Heat Therapy Instead of Cold?
Heat therapy is not meant to be used when the injury is new. When the injury lasts for more than 72 hours, that’s when heat therapy is put into use. In the case that heat therapy is used in place of cold therapy, the injury may be damaged even further.
Either way, when the wrong form of therapy is used in place of the correct one, further injury and pain will occur. Obviously we wouldn’t apply ice on ourselves when we’re already cold or heat when we’re already heavily sweating.
With an inflamed part of your body has added heat, the area will most definitely get worse. In fact, it will inflame even more! Swelling will occur and the situation will be a lot worse than what happened initially.
Difference Between a Sprain and Strain
The two injuries will seem extremely similar at first, but we’ll try and clear it up. Strains are when the muscle is overstretched, thus being teared. The muscle may have spasms as well as pain around the area. Flexibility becomes a little bit more limited. At first the area may be a little inflamed in which ice should be used. Once the swelling tones down, heat therapy can be used.
When it comes to sprains, the injury is physically more distinctive. The sprained area becomes extremely swollen and will have some bruising. This is a case where ice needs to be applied and continued to be applied.
Products for Heat and Cold Therapy
With cold therapy, the products are a little more simple. Find some ice, bag it, cover it with a cloth then place over the injury. Or if that doesn’t seem to be something you want to consider, there are products out there to help with cold therapy.
As for heat therapy, there are multiple products out there. From microwavable heat pads, electric heating pads to infrared heating pads. There are a variety of heat therapy solutions offered here.
In the case that you want both heat and cold in one product, the solution does exist! Heating and cooling pads are offered at a variety of places but this product is one that can cover a large amount of area. Plus, it can be wrapped around the injured area.
Making the Proper Decision
Ultimately, you’ll know how you should treat your body. Logically, if the area is heated already, ice would make sense. The same works vice versa. Just don’t make the mistake of utilizing the wrong form of therapy.