Heat or Cold for Chronic Muscle Pain?

Heat or Cold for Chronic Muscle Pain?

There are many different ways to manage your pain, whether arthritis or chronic muscle pain. You can try treatments like TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) or medications. Or you could also use heat and cold therapy; it's similar to what athletes do with recovery techniques.

Pain Management: About Heat Therapy

Heat therapy can effectively manage chronic pain in the muscles and joints, which are often affected by arthritis. Not only does it relax your muscles, but it encourages increased blood flow and circulation, which helps alleviate discomfort. Heat also breaks up the lactic acid waste build-up in your muscles by improving blood flow, thereby decreasing pain and discomfort. So any time you're feeling achy or in pain, you may want to think about utilizing some heat!

To use heat therapy, some different ways are as follows:

  • Apply a heating pad or hot towel to the injured part; some come with wet inserts for moist heat.
  • Apply a heat wrap to your sore area;  Heat wraps work great for soothing sore muscles during workouts or so long as you need to feel comforted with a massage right away.
  • Take a hot bath or take a warm shower.
  • Try a heated paraffin wax treatment for sore joints in the hands and feet.

Using heating pads or hot water for your muscle aches sometimes works, but if you are using heat therapy too often or improperly, undesired side effects may surface. You see, having a heating device too close to the skin for too long could cause redness and could even bring about a burning sensation, which is not what we want.

Never use lotions with a heating pad because the combined heat can trap water under the skin. If you're planning on using one, place it on spots that have protective fat and don't apply them to your face or other places of sensitive skin.

Pain Management: About Cold Therapy

If you have a joint or muscle so swollen and inflamed that it's causing you pain, one of the best pain management techniques to consider is cold therapy. Cold therapy reduces blood flow to the area, which can help to alleviate painful swelling and reduce inflammation. Plus, it provides a numbing effect on your muscles and other tissues in the area and slows down the pain messages sent from your nerves to your brain.

some ways to use cold therapy are as follows:

  • Apply a homemade cold sack or even a bag of frozen vegetables (this conforms well to many body parts).
  • Soak the affected area in a cold tub — don't make the water too icy or stay submerged for too long.
  • Soak a washcloth in cold water and apply it as a cold compress.
  • Buy a chemical cold pack.

When applying cold or ice packs to a sore area, it is best to limit the exposure to no more than 10-30 minutes at a time. Have you ever heard that red tint on the skin means it's been iced for too long? If you experience hives or skin that temporarily turns purple after icing an injury for too long, then that's your body telling you not to do it again!

Is Cold or Heat Best for Your Pain?

If you're agonizing between cold and heat for your sore muscles or swelling joints, think about what type of pain you have, where it is exactly, and what your doctor has suggested. You see, many studies have been done on lower-back pain, with reviews of these studies appearing in some major medical journals claiming that heat applications work best for this aching from lumbar disc injuries but that either one might help to reduce similar types of body aches and pains if used in combination with other forms of therapy like exercise rehabilitation physical therapy.

It could be entirely up to you when choosing cold or heat for treatment for arthritis since both are said by the Arthritis Foundation to provide help for more pain from arthritis – but it's individual trial and error (it goes without saying), which will prove most effective for each person.

The popular saying is that heat therapy is good for acute pain, while cold therapy helps with chronic pain. Cold therapy can be particularly helpful if you've got an overuse injury and a muscle or joint is swollen and painful following exercise; it may also feel best on a flaring arthritic joint. If you have a sore or painful muscle or very stiff joint, heat therapy may be your best bet to relieve symptoms.

If you're on the hunt for new ways to help relieve your aches and pains, don't look past the power of heat and cold! By using either cold therapy or heat therapy at home or via a healthcare professional, you can safely help ease your pain without any harmful side effects. Speak to your doctor today about which type of therapy will most likely bring you relief!

"This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Always consult your physician to determine a treatment plan that is right for you."
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