Hot Pack or Cold Pack: Which to use after Inflammation Injuries?

Hot Pack or Cold Pack: Which to use after Inflammation Injuries?

For individuals grappling with pain, muscular aches, and inflammation, the choice between hot and cold therapy can significantly impact recovery outcomes.

Generally, cold therapy is recommended for acute injuries often seen in sports, such as strains, sprains, or swelling. It helps reduce inflammation by constricting blood vessels, thus slowing blood flow to the affected area, which can decrease swelling and numb pain almost immediately.

Conversely, hot therapy is better suited for chronic conditions or muscular stiffness. It works by dilating blood vessels, which increases blood flow and supplies oxygen and nutrients that help heal damaged tissues. Hot packs also relax muscles and reduce stiffness in areas like the neck, back, or shoulders.

Deciding whether to use hot or cold therapy often depends on the nature of the injury—acute or chronic—and should be guided by healthcare professionals to ensure effective and safe treatment, aligning with the best practices for pain management and injury recovery.

To help reduce inflammation, we will be exploring how to use hot or cold packs.

Heat therapy

When should you warm up?

Heat therapy is commonly considered to be either dry or moist.

Dry heat therapy is a combination of hot water bottles and heating pads. They are simple to use and work in reducing discomfort. Moist heat therapy includes a warm tub, hot and wet towel, and moist heat pack.

The use of Heat is not recommended to treat acute injuries, strains, or contusions because it increases blood flow, which can cause swelling and cause pain.

Heating therapy can benefit chronic ailments such as constant neck and joint or back pain.

If you are experiencing pain due to an injury, strain, or sprain, it is important to apply cold therapy immediately. However, heat therapy can help ease the pain for up to 72 hours after injury.

Cooling down the injury as soon as it occurs after the incident can decrease swelling, but avoid doing it for too long.

It is not about applying something extremely hot. Instead, it should be comfortable, warm, and easy to tolerate for long durations, such as Sacksythyme's Hot therapy relief heating pad.

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The use of heat therapy is beneficial for tension in muscles or joint stiffness. It can increase blood flow and warm joints and muscles for approximately 15 minutes before exercise to warm up. This method can also assist those who can aggravate injuries by releasing and relaxing the muscles injured.

Alternating Heat and cold therapy to the area of pain has been utilized for many years, but research has yet to evaluate the practice. The results of one study examined hospital patients suffering from heel pain. It found more improvement in foot function following cold and hot therapy than those who received standard treatment.

How does it work

Heat therapy is a treatment that involves applying heat to a specific area of the body, which results in an increase in blood flow and circulation due to the elevated temperature. Even a slight increase in temperature can help alleviate discomfort and improve muscle flexibility. Heat therapy is an effective way to relax muscles and promote the healing of damaged tissues.


There are two types of heat therapy: dry Heat and humid Heat. Both kinds of heat therapy should strive towards "warm" as the ideal temperature instead of "hot."

  • Dry Heat (or "conducted heat therapy") can be found in heating pads, dry heating packs, and saunas. It's easy to apply.  
  • Moist Heat (or "convection heat") is a term used to describe sources such as steamed towels, hot baths, or moist heating packs. The moist Heat is more effective and requires less time for the application to achieve the same outcomes

Professional heat therapy treatments can also be applied. For instance, the Heat generated by ultrasound could alleviate tendonitis-related pain.

Using the heat therapy method, you may apply local, regional, or whole-body treatment. Local therapy is ideal for smaller areas of pain, such as stiff muscles. You can use small heating pads or hot water bottles for those who only wish the treatment of an injury on a local basis. Regional treatment is ideal for treating more generalized pain or stiffness. It can be done with a steamed towel, a large heating pad, and heat wraps. The complete body treatment could comprise saunas or hot baths.

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    When to Use Heat Therapy Packs?

    Hot packs, or heat therapy, as it is also commonly known, help in the healing and regeneration of damaged tissues. Hot packs are a great way to ease pain, especially if you have stressed muscles. This treatment inflates your blood vessels and increases the flow of oxygen-rich fluids throughout your body with nutrients that help heal injured tissue!

    When not to use

    There are some instances where the use of heat therapy is not recommended. For example, if the area in question is swollen or bruised (or both), it might be preferential to apply cold therapy. Also, heat therapy shouldn't be applied to an area with an open wound.

    Patients with pre-existing medical conditions shouldn't use heat therapy due to the increased chance of burning or other complications from using Heat. It includes:

    • Diabetes  
    • Dermatitis  
    • The vascular disease  
    • deep vein thrombosis  

    If you suffer from hypertension or heart disease, consult your physician before applying heat therapy. If you're pregnant, consult your physician before using saunas or heating pads.

    Applying heat therapy

    The most effective form of heat therapy is effective when utilized for a prolonged period, unlike cold therapy, which needs to be limited.

    The slight stiffness or tension can typically be eased by just fifteen to twenty minutes of heat therapy.

    In the case of severe to moderate pain, patients can get better results from prolonged sessions of heat therapy, such as warm baths or herbal heating pads that last between 30 minutes and 2 hours.

    Heating pad

    Make sure you protect any heating pad from direct contact with your skin. In addition, be aware of the precautions you can take to prevent burns, particularly for those who suffer nerve damage from diabetes or other health conditions.

    Sufficient blood flow might only partially eliminate the chemical byproducts if the exercise is highly intense. The result is the accumulation of a chemical (for instance, lactic acid) that can cause muscle pain. Since blood flow assists in eliminating these chemicals, you can use heating to soothe sore muscles after exercise.

    Cold therapy

    Reducing inflammation by Cold therapy

    We can treat injuries or tissue pain using a cold or hot therapy pack or alternate between both.

    It is suggested to use cold therapy to treat injuries that cause inflammation and swelling, like joint sprains, bruises, or muscle strains. The goal is to reduce blood flow to the affected area and limit the adverse effects of the injuries. Gel packs stored within the freezer cooling sprays or even cold therapy packs will accomplish the task.

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      Staying clear of putting the cold pack directly against the skin for a prolonged time is crucial, as this could cause skin irritation. Instead, it is recommended to wrap the cold pack in a cloth before applying it.

      Cold therapy is the most effective in the acute or immediate pain stage, where inflammation and swelling initially manifest. The treatment should apply for approximately 20 minutes and be repeated every two hours for two days. After that, the injured area will be well into the healing stage, and the inflammation and swelling will diminish.

      Cold therapy, also known as applying the application of ice, is typically employed alongside rest, compression, and elevation, known in first aid by the abbreviation RICE.

      Therefore, Cold therapy is helpful when we wish to minimize the initial discomfort and swelling. This is because excessive or prolonged swelling could hinder the process of healing. For less severe injuries, such as minor sprains or injuries, swelling is a part of the healing process. The continued use of cold therapy could be an obstacle to healing.

      How does it work

      It is also referred to as cryotherapy. It reduces blood flow to a specific area, which reduces swelling and inflammation that cause discomfort, particularly around joints or tendons. In addition, it can temporarily limit the activity of nerves, alleviating pain.


      There are a variety of different methods you can use to apply the cold to the affected region. The treatment options are:

      • Cold packs or frozen gel packs  
      • Coolant Sprays
      • ice massage  
      • ice baths  

      Other forms of cold therapy often utilized are:

      • Try stretching is a form of therapy that uses cold to lessen the muscle spasms that occur during stretching  
      • Cryokinetics is a technique that combines active and cold therapy and is beneficial in ligament strains.  
      • Whole-body cold therapy chambers

      When to Use Cold Therapy Packs?

      Cold packs are often used to reduce swelling and inflammation in the body, which helps with healing. Many people use them after they've had surgery or an injury because they provide relief by temporarily lowering nerve activity throughout your skin tissues while maintaining Heat. It makes the healing process faster.

      When not to use

      Sensory disorders that prevent people from experiencing certain sensations shouldn't use treatments with cold at home as they might be unable to sense whether damage has been done. This is especially true for diabetes, which could cause nerve damage and decreased sensitivities.

      Do not apply the cold treatment on stiff muscles or joints.

      It is not recommended to apply cold therapy if you suffer from weak circulation.

      Applying cold therapy

      For home care, use a cold pack covered in a towel or an ice bath for the affected area. Applying a frozen object directly to your skin is not recommended because it may cause tissue and skin injury. Apply cold treatment as quickly as possible following an injury.

      Apply cold therapy for short intervals, several times throughout every day. A period of 10 to 15 minutes is sufficient, but at most, 20 minutes of cold therapy can be administered simultaneously to avoid nerve tissue and skin injuries. It is possible to raise the affected area to get optimal outcomes.

      When deciding on your pack, here are some essential points to keep in mind:

      The right temperature for a pack will depend on your needs. Hot packs can help with pain relief, while One should use cold ones to reduce inflammation and swelling before treatment begins or after an injury has healed enough that you can move around without the risk of re-injury.

      Now that we know what exactly happens and when to use a hot pack and a cold pack, given below are some key points to keep in mind while deciding how to use your hot or cold pack and when:

      • It is essential to determine the nature of your injury. Is it chronic, recovering, or acute? Because that will dictate how much time and what you need for healing.
      • Limit your usage to the afflicted area, and based on the criteria mentioned above, determine whether it requires hot therapy or cold treatment.
      • Lastly, be mindful of the usage and requirements that both hot and cold packs serve.

      Here are some general guidelines for using hot and cold packs:

      • Cold packs: Apply for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times daily. Place a towel between the cold pack and your skin to avoid frostbite.
      • Hot packs: Apply for 20-30 minutes at a time, several times daily. Be careful not to overheat the area, as this can worsen inflammation.

      It is important to listen to your body and stop using the hot or cold pack if it causes pain or discomfort.

      Here are some specific examples of when to use hot and cold packs for inflammation injuries:

      • Sprains and strains: Use a cold pack in 48-72 hours to reduce inflammation and pain. Once the inflammation has subsided, you can switch to a hot pack to promote healing and reduce muscle spasms.
      • Tendonitis: Use a cold pack in the first 48-72 hours to reduce inflammation and pain. Once the inflammation has subsided, you can use a hot pack to reduce muscle spasms and improve your range of motion.
      • Bursitis: Use a cold pack in the first 48-72 hours to reduce inflammation and pain. Once the inflammation has subsided, you can alternate between hot and cold packs to promote healing and reduce discomfort.

      If you are unsure of whether to use a hot pack or cold pack or if you have any concerns, please consult with your doctor or physical therapist.

      So, cold first and maybe Heat later

      The main takeaway is that cold packs effectively alleviate pain and inflammation during the acute stage of an injury, strain, or abrasion, especially when used in conjunction with the RICE treatment.

      Heat packs help decrease stiffness, muscle tension, and joint pain; however, they should not be used in the first phase of injury. There's not enough evidence to suggest that alternating both is especially effective in the same way. Still, cold water immersion therapy can assist in recovering from sports or prolonged physical exertion.

      That is where Sacksy Thyme's products come in. We aim to offer quick results towards effective treatment, which will help reduce the pain of inflammatory injuries and promote healthy recovery in no time.

      Our groundbreaking, versatile, and durable ice and heat sacks have benefited numerous patients in dealing with various health struggles. Patients are advised to apply a Sacksy Thyme cold wrap after exercise to reduce the inflammation causing swelling and pain. Then, to enhance blood flow and tissue mobility, patients should switch to a heat wrap that will help them gradually recover.

      To explore more products, we offer, please visit Sacksy Thyme's Shopify Store.

      " 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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