Reducing The Impact Of Pain
A strain or pulled muscle can be a real pain. Inflammation and pain are the body’s natural reactions to an injury such as a strained ligament or muscle. To reduce the irritation, physicians often recommend using ice therapy, also called cryotherapy, or heat therapy, also called thermotherapy. But which one is best to use and when?
Inflammation is just swell
Inflammation is the immune system’s response to an injury. Inflammation signals to the body that damaged tissue needs repairing. However, in some circumstances, such as a strained muscle, a person can reduce inflammation by applying a hot or cold compress.
Thermotherapy involves the use of heat to relieve muscular pain or stiffness. Heat therapy not only reduces mild pain but is also very relaxing. Because heat can penetrate several centimeters beneath the skin, this form of therapy can speed up biochemical healing processes. Thermotherapy can also be good for relieving soreness after sports or exercise. Thermotherapy is best applied using a heating pad as this will maintain a safe and consistent temperature.
When not to use hot therapy
Heat can worsen some conditions, however. Thermotherapy should not be used on tissue that is injured or infected. Signs of injury are obvious, such as lesions or contusions. Signs of infection are subtler but include puffiness, redness, and hotness. Heat should also not be applied to a new injury.
Time to chill
Cryotherapy can be of great benefit to muscle and ligament strains, particularly in sports injuries. Cold therapy works in several ways to promote healing. Cryotherapy begins by reducing blood flow to the injured area, which reduces swelling. The cold has a numbing effect which helps to reduce pain and muscle spasms. As metabolism and circulation slow down, cryotherapy also reduces the chance of further tissue damage.
When to use cold therapy
Cryotherapy should be applied immediately after an injury. Ice packs can be used for sports injuries. Professional athletes who want to heal as quickly as possible use a cryotherapy system which is comprised of a wrap that combines compression with cryotherapy and allows continuous cycling of chilled fluid. This type of system is much more convenient than a one-size-fits-all bandage and simple ice pack.
Alleviate pain with hot and cold
Ice and heat have been used to alleviate mild pain for centuries. Remember to use the correct form of therapy for the condition that is being treated. Sometimes the two therapies will have a different effect on the same condition. Patients should consult with a healthcare provider about when ice or heat therapy is the right treatment option.