Temperature therapy is sometimes helpful for various types of pain and injuries, including back pain, neck pain, and shoulder pain. It’s possible to buy heating or cooling packs from the store or make your own at home. Whether you’re using heat or ice, it’s wise to know how to use them to make the treatment as effective as possible. These two types of temperature therapy work for different conditions and at different times, so understanding their differences is useful. We’ve put together this quick guide to help you understand and make the most of your treatment.
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Cold therapy treats inflammation by restricting blood flow. It’s helpful within the first 72 hours of an injury and you might use it to relieve conditions like sprains, joint pain, and tendonitis. Ice therapy is particularly effective after exercising and might speed up your recovery time. It might also reduce your sensitivity to pain, which often makes it an effective treatment immediately after an injury.
Heat treatment relaxes muscles, opens up blood vessels, increases circulation, and relieves soreness. You might use it to treat injuries after the first 72 hours and it’s a particularly common treatment for ongoing back pain. You could also try it for conditions like arthritis, headaches and migraines, and long-term or reoccurring injuries. For some people, using heat treatment before exercising helps the muscles to warm up. This reduces the risk of injury during exercise.
Tips for both treatments
Whether you’re using heat or ice, it’s important to never apply the heating or cooling element directly to the skin. Use a thin towel or cloth as a barrier. It’s advisable to only use either treatment for a maximum of 20 minutes at a time and if you’re alternating between treatments, it’s a good idea to wait for an hour in between each one. This allows the area to recover from one temperature before applying the other.
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