Monday, February 29, 2016

Aches and Pains? When to Apply Heat or Cold

So, you’re playing sports with friends when you suffer a particularly bad tumble. Then again, maybe your arthritis is acting up again due to the unseasonably cold weather. Indeed, sooner or later, most people are bound to encounter such aches and pains, which begs the question: should I use a hot or cold compress to alleviate the discomfort?

When to Use a Cold Compress

In general, you want to apply a cold compress to injuries that have inflammation. For most people, this will include sprains and pulled muscles. Why use cold in these scenarios? Simple: whenever there’s an injury, the body increases the blood flow to the area to help with recovery. This process, however, also causes swelling, which can be very uncomfortable. Thankfully, a cold compress can help in two ways: (1) it will constrict the swollen blood vessels; and (2) numb the tissues around the injury.

When to Apply Heat

What about chronic pains like arthritis? In this and similar cases, it’s best to use heat instead. Generally speaking, any pain that involves stiffness or constriction (e.g. stiff neck) is best treated with heat because it will dilate the blood vessels and facilitate blood flow. Of course, a hot compress isn’t the only way to treat such discomforts; you can also climb into an infrared sauna which uses electromagnetic waves to heat the tissues and bring relief. In fact, such technologies are proven to alleviate aches related to fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions. For people with such conditions, it will be a worthwhile investment for their homes.

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