Hot or Cold For Muscle Pain? Which Therapy to Choose
Should you use hot or cold for muscle pain? Some people will tell you to exclusively use hot therapy, whereas others will suggest applying ice to a sore area. So which is right? Fortunately, there is an answer to this question that will guide you in the right direction:
Both hot and cold therapy are useful for treating muscle pain. Whether you need hot or cold for muscle pain depends on the nature of the issue that is causing the pain in the first place. Let’s look at this in more detail:
When you would need cold treatment for muscle pain
Cold treatment is an excellent treatment for recently injured or inflamed muscles. This is due to the fact that inflammation restricts blood flow, which is necessary to promote faster healing; cold treatment reduces said inflammation. Also, cold treatment also helps to reduce pain by slowing down the pain receptors that are communicating with your brain.
An example of an effective situation in which to treat muscle pain with cold therapy would be after a workout that resulted in muscle soreness. The soreness is the result of your muscles having some inflammation at the site of the pain. Using cold treatment will effectively reduce the inflammation that the exercise helped to incite, effectively enhancing blood flow and alleviating pain. That is why you will often see professional athletes using ice packs — or even taking ice baths — to soothe their aching muscles and to promote faster healing.
How to use cold treatment for muscle pain
When using cold treatment, it is very important that you do not overdo it, because too much ice or other cold implement applied to the body can result in tissue damage. As such, you should use a cold compress or take a cold bath for no more than 20 minutes at a time, for up to 6 times per day; leaving at least four hours in between each treatment. Also, make sure that the cold compress that you use is a chemical cold pack designed to be applied to the skin or that you use a barrier like a towel to protect your skin from the ice.
When you would need hot treatment for muscle pain
Stiff, tight muscles need to relax in order for the pain to be alleviated. Heat is a natural muscle relaxer, making it a great option for people with this type of muscle pain. Like cold treatment, hot treatment also improves blood flow to the muscles, albeit in a different way: it reduces lactic acid waste buildup, which will restrict blood flow.
For example, if you are experiencing muscle spasms, you can use hot therapy as an effective tool to calm those muscles down.
How to use hot treatment for muscle pain
As with cold treatment, there is such a thing as using too much hot therapy for muscle pain. This is due to the fact that too much heat can actually induce or worsen inflammation, offsetting the benefits received by the treatment. As such, you should not undergo hot therapy for more than 20 minutes at a time, for up to four times per day; leave at least five hours in between each treatment.
Should you use hot or cold for muscle pain?
Before you choose which therapy is best for you, consider the nature of your injury and use the facts discussed above as a guide. To learn more about how to alleviate pain in the body, contact the Chiro-Med Rehab Center, a team of pain reduction experts. Call to request a consultation at 905.918.0419.