Hot and Cold Therapy
Hot or cold packs for injuries this is the question that many people want answered when they incur painful injuries, especially at the onset. While I may not be an expert I do know when to use hot or cold therapy for injuries. The reason I know this is because I have had to rehab quite a few injuries, my most recent ones being a broken knee and hip. Prior to these two I had several torn rotator cuffs back to back, sprained ankle, torn hamstring, stress fracture, shin splints and the list goes on. Most of these injuries were sports related and some just plain carelessness. I am an avid believer in the old saying don't do as I do, but do as I say, since it seems to be referring to people like myself who tend to learn their lessons the hard way.
Each and every one of these injuries was rehabbed using heat and cold therapy as well as physical therapy. So, it is safe to say I learned much about types of therapy as far as how and when to use them. Pain can be difficult to manage, but hot or cold packs help immensely when used correctly and at the correct time. Timing is the key when it comes to them being as effective as possible. In other words, you need to know which one to apply and when.
Ice or cold packs should be applied to the injury immediately in one way or another, even a few ice cubes out of a cup and wrapped in a napkin will do in a pinch. You do what you can until you can get the real thing. You will be amazed at how much this one seemingly small act will do. The first thing it does is ease the pain. Second, it reduces swelling, which is what causes much of the pain. Third, when you act fast enough it can save weeks of rehab time. Think fast and act even faster!
For those of you who want to know how and why it works you're about to find out. This is what happens: when cold is applied it limits the flow of blood to the injury, which lowers the temperature of damaged soft tissue reducing the high rate of cells damaged. It also decreases fluid build up and numbs nerve endings that would otherwise create much more pain.
As far as heat therapy goes it is wise to wait a couple of days or more before using heat on an injury. However, if there is no injury, but simply muscle soreness, then heat can be applied sooner or right away. When heat is applied it rushes blood to the area, which brings much needed nutrients and oxygen that are vital to the healing process. You may be starting to understand why hot and cold packs are so important when it comes to treating injuries.
Keep in mind, however, when there is serious pain that does not let up then you should see a health professional and follow instruction explicitly. If you don't it can result in the injury getting worse and taking longer to rehab and heal. I have done it! Remember, don't do as I do, but do as I say. My example for this; I didn't seek medical help for shin splints and the next thing you know I developed a horribly painful stress fracture that took forever to heal.
Self treating injuries are something we all do from time to time, but don't be foolish and allow a not so serious injury to become a serious one. Hot or cold packs for injuries is ultimately your decision, however, it doesn't hurt to apply ice packs or some form of cold therapy and can accelerate the healing process, but heat can cause pain to worsen when used too soon.
Hot Cold Packs -Hot Cold Therapy
Some of the most popular ones are gel hot cold packs, since they are flexible and conform to the shape of the body so well. If you ever have to resort to a homemade ice pack then you will see why this type of hot cold pack is popular. Homemade ice packs do not conform until the ice melts a little and even then they're not very comfortable. They serve the purpose, but that's it.
There are disposable hot cold packs that are designed to be portable that you can take and use anywhere anytime. They can be activated instantly by shaking and discarded just as easily.
Reusable hot cold packs are available with covers or without and are heated in the microwave or placed in freezer for cold therapy. Many of them last up to 60 minutes, which is longer than you will need per treatment. Cold packs typically are used for 10-20 minutes per treatment and heat 20- 30 minutes or longer depending on pain level and muscle tension.
Moist heat penetrates deeper than dry heat, so if you have a more serious type injury or arthritis moist heat is preferred as a pain reliever. Dry heat tends to not be as effective, but is good for minor aches and pains. All heat helps to relax muscles and increase blood flow.
Hot cold wraps are another option and are used for larger parts of the body and conform more to specific areas. For example, a shoulder ice wrap will be a more effective for a torn rotator than a simple ice pack that can't possibly cover the entire area at once. While you can move it around it is difficult and I know this because, you guessed it, I have done it.
As far as the most popular brands of hot and cold packs go Carex and Ace are a couple of major players in the hot cold therapy product arena. Caldera, Elasto Gel, Body Glove and NeoWrap are some other well known brands that carry a wide selection of quality made hot cold therapy products. There are plenty of reviews and ratings on these brands on Amazon if you want more details and to compare prices.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how and when to use hot or cold packs for injuries as well as why hot and cold therapy are a vital part of the healing process.