Not every bodily injury requires physical therapy. Whether you’ve worked out a little too hard at the gym or you need some pain relief between visits with us, using heat and cold is an effective treatment option. All you need is a little bit of time, along with an ice pack or heating pad.
Usually we know instinctively when to use heat and when to use cold. Muscles that ache or feel stiff and painful can be soothed with warmth. Heat increases your body’s circulation and blood flow, helping muscles relax. This is why heating muscle rubs feel good after an intense workout.
You can use dry heat or moist heat to treat muscle pain and stiffness. Dry heat is also known as conducted heat––sources include dry heating packs and pads. Moist heat, or convention heat, could be a washcloth soaked in warm water, moist heating packs, and a long soak in a hot bath.
For full body soreness, opt for some time in the bathtub or a sauna if you have access to one. Warm, wet washcloths and heating pads are perfect for localized injuries. Although it can be tempting to use scalding hot compresses, warm is much more effective and safe. Minor stiffness may require as little as 15 minutes of heat therapy for relief, but more severe pain will require longer treatment.
Acute injuries and pain, bruises, and swelling do best with ice therapy vs. heat therapy. Also known as cryotherapy, using cold compresses does the opposite as heat therapy––instead of increasing blood flow to an area, it decreases it. Cold also acts to temporarily numb pain.
If your mom used to give you a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel when you hurt yourself, she had the right idea. That bag of frozen veggies still works, as does a more conventional ice pack. As long as the ice is wrapped in a towel first to prevent skin damage, you’re set.
Other ways to apply cold to injuries include cooling creams or sprays, ice massage, and ice baths. Cold therapy works best immediately after an injury and should only be used for short periods of time––10 to 15 minutes is best, several times a day as needed. Any more than that and you risk damage to your skin and nerves.
If hot and cold therapies have not helped your injury, it may be time to consider pain relieving therapy. We offer a variety of treatments for pain, from suspension therapy to acupuncture and cupping. Give us a call at 973-241-1338 to learn more about our services.