Ice and heat, both are known as the most effective relief providing ailments. Either it is an aggressive workout or a long day at the office; you enter your house searching for any one of them. But do you know which should be used when? We mostly used heating pads earlier but these days; ice packs have become more popular. We keep using any one of them without knowing their exact purpose.
Ice or Heat – Which provides better Relief in Back Pain?
This confusion and not sure what to use when exists commonly in our society. There is no clear-cut evidence of purpose of using heat or cold therapy on the injuries; it is just what the doctor advice.
Well, there is a thumb rule to clear the confusion and that is the timing of the injury: if it is new or a long time injury. Both heat and cold therapies have different theories in the context.
Cold therapy, that is ice, slows the flow of blood towards the injury which reduces pain and swelling. However, heat increases the flow of oxygen and blood, which in turn helps in repairing the damaged tissues. The point is sufficient to clear the timings of usage of both the techniques. Ice works best on new injuries while heat is best for any injury older than 6 weeks to restart the process of healing.
Points to mind while Using heat or ice
These few points will make you even clearer.
#1 Muscle pull: You should use ice as soon as you get your muscle pulled. It will help you with the swelling and inflammation. But, if it takes weeks to heal, you must switch to heating pads and exercised.
#2 Ankle sprain: Ice, coupled with compression and elevation is the best treatment to cure the sprained ankle. You should apply it 30 minutes on and then 20 minutes off in initial 35-48 hours. A frozen gel pack or a ziplock filled with ice can be your only solution.
#3 Menstrual cramps: Menstrual cramp is not a real injury. A warm heating pad can help you with the contracting and releasing body muscles. Moreover, heat can stimulate the contraction of uterine muscles.
#4 Lower back pain: The thumb rule of heat and cold therapy applies here. Any kind of injury in lower back makes you crave for heat. No matter what, stick to ice, if your injury is new. But if your back often acts up same at this particular point, you need the warmth. Go see the doctor if you do not observe any difference in new injury in 48 hours even after using ice.
#5 Headaches: Ice packs are no less than a miracle for headaches, especially migraine. Ice makes you feel easy and comfortable because of its numbing effect. According to a research, a frozen neck wrap reduces the migraine pain significantly. It is advised to use the ice pack for a 10 minute interval every 30-60 minutes.
#6 Hemorrhoids: Hemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed veins which can be neutralize by using an ice pack. It will reduce the flow of blood to the veins. Once you control the situation, try using heating pad for the same. A warm water sitz bath can be extremely soothing in such a situation.
#7 Arthritis: Arthritis is the inflammation in the joints which in chronic and painful. Introduction of heat can soothe and relax the stiff muscles by increasing the supply of blood to the joints. Try using a microwavable heating pad or an old fashioned hot water bottle. Wrap it around your joints and sit in a relaxed and calm position. If you intend to fall asleep using the heating pad, never use an electrical one.
#8 Stiff neck: If you woke up with a swollen or painful neck, an ice pack is best for this acute injury. Soak a towel in ice and wrap it around your neck. Sooner you use the ice, sooner you will feel relaxed.
I have tried my best to cover the most common kind of pains we suffer from. Just remember, you need to follow the key thumb rule before making the decision of choosing the heat or old therapy. Also, both the therapies are alternative and not a permanent solution. If you do not get any results in initial hours, do not hesitate in visiting a physician.