HOT PACK VS COLD PACK

Guelph Rehab Centre Hot vs Cold Packs

There are many theories as to when to apply heat and when to apply cold to an area of pain. The following are some points and tips to consider.

First of all, applying a hot pack or cold pack is a quick, inexpensive and self-directed method to treat pain. And, if you don’t have an actual hot pack or cold pack, (usually gel filled) you can use anything like frozen peas, fill a plastic sandwich bag with ice, soaked towel in hot water (just note it gets cold afterwards), hot water bottle, all within a tolerable temperature.

HOT AND COLD THERAPY TIPSSO HERE ARE SOME EASY “QUICK TIPS” TO REMEMBER WHEN DECIDING WHETHER TO USE HOT OR COLD.

HEAT APPLICATION

Helps temporarily reduce pain from muscle stiffness.

Good for:

  • Older injuries (more than 10 days old)
  • Sore, tight and stiff muscles
  • Trigger points (“knots” in the muscle)

Not Good for:

  • New injuries (less than 10 days old)
  • Inflamed, red, hot areas of injury

COLD APPLICATION

Note: ice is a natural analgesic. Note the stages of Ice application: you will first feel Cold, then an Ache, then a slight Burning sensation then Numbing (CABN). To fully benefit from ice, keep it on until the final numbing stage is reached.

Helps temporarily reduce pain caused from too much inflammation (note: some inflammation is good, it’s our natural reparative process)

Good for:

  • New injuries (immediately following an injury and less than 10 days old)
  • Excessive inflammation (red and hot injured area)
  • Swelling (from excessive inflammation which causes pressure)

Not Good for:

  • Tight, stiff muscles (cold will increase the pain symptom by increasing your muscle stiffness)
  • Trigger points (cold aggravates the “knots”)

Just to make things difficult, there is a 3rd option. Apply both! It’s called Vascular Flushing.

This would be done on an area of discomfort that is NOT inflamed. The purpose of vascular flushing is to “pump” fresh, oxygenated blood to a specific area. This promotes healing of the injured tissue.

ALTERNATING ICE AND HEAT THERAPY

Here’s what to do:

  1. Apply “heat” to the painful area for 10-15min.
  2. Apply “cold” to the same area for 10-15min.
  3. Repeat #1 then #2, two more times

Always ending in cold to ensure you do not promote too much congestion.If you have tried all of this and you are still in pain, you may want to seek help from a physiotherapist or massage therapist. Contact Guelph Rehab today.