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Fight Pain with Cold and Heat Therapies

By Hillary Oberpeul | December 27, 2017 Pain Relief
Fight Pain with Cold and Heat Therapies

Get the most out of your pain relief with these easy pain relief solutions.

Pain isn’t just a feeling—it can rewrite how we live. When we’re in pain, we’re less likely to be active and more likely to sit out important opportunities in life. Rest may seem like the most comfortable option, but research shows inactivity can be debilitating to a person’s mind and body, and can even lead to chronic pain. The good news? There are great relief options out there, and quite a few can be used right at home!

Many healthcare professionals point to cold and heat therapies, like topical pain relievers and hot/cold packs, as an easy, at-home solution to muscle and joint pain. But there is one nagging question that comes with this type of relief—when do you use cold and when do you use heat?

Take a look at this guide to learn more about how cold and heat therapies can help you find relief and when each work best.

Start with Cold Therapy

Cryotherapy (the technical term for cold therapy) is the application of cold temperature to an injury or pain point. Lowering the temperature in the body around an injury constricts blood vessels and decreases blood flow to the site. This helps reduce pain, swelling and inflammation. Traditionally, this has meant putting a bag of ice on the injured or sore area, but now there are products like cold packs and topical pain relievers that can achieve the same effects.

When to Use Cold Therapy

Usually, you’ll want to apply cold therapy to an injury that has occurred in the last 24 hours. Follow the doctor-recommended rule of “20 minutes on, 20 minutes off” within that first 24-hour window to slow swelling and help relieve your pain.

How to Apply Cold Therapy

Cold therapy works topically, or right on the surface of the skin. To get all the benefits, put a cold pack or topical pain reliever directly on the site of the injury. Nix the leaky ice bag and opt for more convenient and comfortable products:

Turn Up the Heat Therapy

Thermotherapy (the technical term for heat therapy) is applying heat to stiff, sore, tight or injured muscles. Heat increases blood flow to your injury, relaxing muscles and making movement easier. Once swelling has gone down, use heat to stimulate blood circulation and speed up recovery time.

When to Use Heat Therapy

You’ll want to wait at least 24 hours after an injury to apply heat therapy. Do not apply heat when there is active swelling—the increase in blood flow could actually make your swelling worse. Experts recommend heat therapy on an ongoing basis to increase circulation, warm up muscles and soothe pain prior to workouts and activities.

How to Apply Heat Therapy

Put a heat pack or warming topical directly on the site of the injury or pain. Try these convenient heat therapy options:

  • THERAºPEARL Heat Packs and Wraps are dual-use heat/cold packs designed to fit your body. They can be microwaved to deliver heat therapy where you need it.
  • Perform Atomic Heat is a warming topical analgesic that soothes stiff muscles, pain and soreness with heat therapy. It uses capsaicin (what makes chili peppers hot) to create the heat of a hot pack in the form of a topical gel.

Are you Hot or Cold?

As with any injury, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional to fully understand the condition and severity of your injury and its related pain. Your healthcare professional can help you decide whether your pain will respond best to cold or heat therapy. If you don’t have one, try using the Professional Finder to find one near you. For a detailed search by body part or objective (or even various healthcare professional types), enter your zip code and click “Continue.” Be sure each professional you see knows what other care you're using so all of your treatments complement each other. Our recommendation? Don’t wait. Finding a way to manage your pain from start to finish can keep you active and living life to its fullest.

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